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John Palacios (“Smoke”) | Carbon County Mining Icon


John Palacios 1

    CARBON COUNTY-We are heartbroken at the loss of our husband, father, uncle, mentor, hero and the love of our lives, John Palacios, Sr., passed away at his home in West Jordan on December 8, 2017.  He was born on July 29, 1929, to Peter Kolumbo and Maria Palacios.  He was a member of Notre Dame Parish in Price and a member of the Knights of Columbus.
    John grew up with his eight sisters and brothers in Sego and Standardville, Utah.  As a young boy he left his home and rode the rails to California with his best friend, Edward Bezyack.  He stayed there for a while and worked in the fields of Northern California.  When he was 15 he signed up with the U.S. Army and was sent to Basic Training in Alabama and then to Fort Lewis in Washington.  He was honorably discharged from the service when he was 17 years old.
     After his two-year stint in the service he returned to Standardville and married Carmella Gonzales on August 15, 1951 in Elko, Nevada, after asking her father for her hand. They were married 67 years and had three children.
     He began his coal mining career at Spring Canyon Mine and spent two years working there.  Little did he realize that he had a talent for mining coal.  His next job took him to the Royal Coal Company.  He then started working for Kaiser Steel’s Operations.  It was here that he made his mark for himself as well as the coal mining industry.  He was fondly nicknamed “Smoke” as he seemed to appear throughout the mine like smoke.  The coal mining industry labeled him “King of the Longwall” as he was instrumental in the installation and running of the first longwall face in the western United States. At Kaiser Steel he was named longwall section foreman, mine foreman, and finally Sunnyside’s longwall superintendent, which made him an industry icon. He moved more than 40 longwalls in a decade’s time.  He along with his crews set two world records for production in a 24-hour period.  In his career he traveled to many coal centers throughout the United States, including Canada, England, Germany, Mexico, and Scotland to study mining methods internationally. He loved mining coal, it was his world and he excelled at it.  He along with his crews made a fortune for Kaiser Steel.  He had a great love for coal miners and held them in the highest esteem and always paid homage to his mentors, John Peperakis, Frank Markosek Sr., and Robert Heers.  It wasn’t unusual for family, friends, or new acquaintances to come around to listen to his mine stories.  He participated in several mine rescues with the first at the Cane Creek Potash Disaster in 1963 in Moab, Utah.  The second rescue was with Mr. Peperakis at Carbon Fuel Company in 1963.  His last rescue was as Team Captain for his beloved Smoke Eaters from Kaiser Steel for the Wilberg Mine Disaster which he spent many hours underground. He was a mentor to many mining engineers that crossed his path, some of whom became CEO’s of their companies.  He was awarded the SEUEPA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 along with his brothers. He was a member of the UMWA whom he loved and John L. Lewis was his hero since he was a young man.
     He retired in 1987 after suffering a heart attack underground and was life-flighted to LDS Hospital where the phone system shut down because of the many well-wishers who called.  He was riddled with serious health issues since he was 54 years old and was once again life-flighted to Intermountain Hospital where he fought hard with grace and courage to survive.  He did not do this alone, Carmella’s love and care always helped pull him thru.
     After retirement he took up stained glass art and his Tiffany-styled lamps can be found across the state.  He also started rebuilding a 1974 VW Bug from the ground up and finished it when he was 87.  He was an excellent mechanic who loved cars.  At last count, he had purchased 17 cars.
     At the heart of his life was his religion and his family. He took great pride in his brothers, Joe, Pete, Manual, and Robert as well as his sisters, Margaret, Ruby, Pauline and his partner in crime, Emma.  His childhood stories always entertained family members.  He was a devoted husband and father who adored his grandchildren and always found time to spend with them whether it was teaching them, lecturing them, or answering the many questions they always had for him about cars, houses, etc. They could always come to him for advice or answers.  His generosity knew no bounds whether it was buying cars or houses for them.
     He is survived by his loving wife, Carmella, his daughters, LuJuana Palacios (West Jordan), and Patricia Everson (Park City); grandchildren, Kristina (Dedrick), Camille Clarke (David), Dannie Baker (Josh), Kristin Everson (Mark), and Emily Everson; his great-grandchildren include Lacey Baker (Francisco), Christopher M. Baker (Kati), Bruce, Kyre, Deoindra, Samari, Chauncey, Brody, and Leevi.
    John was preceded in death by his son, John Jr., mother, and father, sisters and brothers, Joe, Margaret, Ruby, and Emma.
Funeral Mass, Saturday, December 16, 2017, 10:00 a.m., Notre Dame de Lourdes Catholic Church.  Vigil service, Friday evening 7:00 p.m. at the church in Price.  Family will receive friends at Notre Dame Church Friday and Saturday one hour prior to services.  Committal service, Cliffview Cemetery, Price.  Arrangements entrusted to Mitchell Funeral Home of Price where friends are always welcome daily and may share memories of John online at www.mitchellfuneralhome.net. The family would like to thank the nurses and staff at Castleview Hospital, Dr.  B. Crandall, Charee Reynolds, Ron and Joan Felice, Traci Harmond, and Erika for their help and support.

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