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PennDOT's Altoona-area district erects memorial to honor fallen

April 12, 2019 12:00 AM
By: Tara Callahan-Henry

PennDOT's Altoona-area district erects memorial to honor fallen

It was a tough year in 2018 for the PennDOT family — particularly those working in District 9, which lost two co-workers in the line of duty. The district covers Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon, and Somerset counties.

The District 9 office building with a flag raised and memorial stone in the foreground.

In February, Blair County foreman Bob Gensimore was placing flares for a crash when he was struck and killed. After that incident, a team of county and district staff came together to raise funds and honor this loss. As part of the honor, it was decided to install a permanent marker in the front yard of the district office in Hollidaysburg to honor the eight employees of District 9 who have been killed while on the job since PennDOT was created.  

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The memorial concept was to be a large stone with a bronze plaque listing the names, their work location, and when they were lost. While in the process of completing the submission for the plaque manufacturer, a second employee, operator Bryan Chamberlain, was killed during a widening activity.  He also from Blair County. Shortly after his passing, the memorial project was expedited. 

At the request of Bob Gensimore's parents, a trip was made to the Gensimore family farm to select a stone for the memorial. His family wanted to help honor their son and the others that have been lost. 

The plaque — now with nine names — was ordered and cast. It was funded from generous donations by the Cesare Battisti, a local social club; the Altoona section of American Society of Highway Engineers; and from contributions by district staff. 

RELATED: 'We are real people:' The importance of work zone safety

In late fall 2018, the stone was set in the front yard of the district office and the plaque was attached by Blair County maintenance staff. Two solar LED lights were added to illuminate the memorial at night.  This year, the district is planning a small ceremony to dedicate the memorial with the families of the fallen, their co-workers, and those who helped make it possible.

PennDOT also has a traveling workers' memorial that honors the 89 employees statewide who have been killed in the line of duty since 1970. Learn more about work zone safety at www.penndot.gov/safety.

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