Rick Williams Embodied Silverton’s Mining Heritage
Revenue-Virginius Mine Shift Supervisor Rick Williams’ love of mining and of the mountains ran deep. Williams died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning on Sunday while trying to save miner Nicholas Cappanno, who also died in the Sunday-morning accident at the mine, which sent 20 surviving miners to regional hospitals.
Williams was husband to Judy Williams; father to two sons, Nathan, 25 and Aaron, 23; and grandfather to Marley, 4. He was born in Moab, and grew up in and around Silverton. In 1993, married with two young sons, Williams moved 50 miles south to Durango.
“He was a wonderful father and son, and brother and neighbor,” said Judy, his wife of 28 years. “He was kind, reliable and very well liked by friends, neighbors and family.”
Williams adored his young granddaughter, Marley. “She was the apple of his eye,” Judy said.
An accomplished carpenter and a trained, certified miner with many years of experience, “He was a hard-working person who did what he needed to do to make a living for his family,” his wife said. “He loved what he did. He loved the mountains.”
Growing up in Silverton, Williams naturally gravitated toward the mining profession, and after graduating from Silverton High School, he found work at the then-booming Sunnyside Mine, where he worked for years.
Like many in Silverton, Williams got out of mining when the Sunnyside shut down for good in the early 1990s, starting a contracting business, Silverton Renovations. For years, he made the beautiful daily commute between Durango and Silverton.
When the economy took a turn for the worse, Williams began traveling farther afield for work. “He traveled everywhere, doing mining or contracting construction projects,” Judy said.
In June 2012, Williams found a steady job closer to home, at the Revenue-Virginius Mine; at 59, he was among the oldest workers there. He displayed a remarkable work ethic, putting in seven days in a row, then traveling back to Durango to spend time with his family on his days off.
“I think those young ones looked up to him,” said Judy, who works as a nurse in Durango. “There were a lot of young ones up there. He really liked working with the guys.”
Williams didn’t talk much about his work in the mines. “If they truly tell you what they think, the spouses don’t sleep at night,” Judy said. Even so, over the many years that she spent as a miner’s wife, she admitted, “I spent a lot of time pacing the floor, worrying and everything.”
Recently, Williams announced his promotion to shift supervisor at the Revenue-Virginius.
“What do you do?” Judy asked him.
“I’m pretty much a nipper,” he joked – a nipper is an entry-level worker in a mine, basically an errand-boy for more experienced miners. “I do whatever needs to be done to get the job done.”
Working at the Revenue-Virginius was a homecoming of sorts for Williams and many other former Sunnyside miners who went to work there after a two-decade hiatus from mining.
“They all knew each other up there,” Judy said. “In Silverton, everyone knew each other. There is a camaraderie around mining in Silverton. In the mining industry, it’s a family.
It’s a death for everyone. They are all grieving, and I feel heartbroken for everyone.”
FUNERAL AND GATHERING PLANNED
Rick Williams’ funeral will be Friday, Nov. 29, at 2 p.m. at the Greenmount Cemetery in Durango, with a gathering immediately afterward at the Durango Community Recreation Center.
WILLIAMS FAMILY MEMORIAL FUND
A memorial fund for the Williams family has been established at Wells Fargo Bank.
Nick Cappanno Was a Man of Faith and Family
Nicholas Cappanno, who died in the Sunday-morning accident at the Revenue-Virginius Mine, had worked there for just a few weeks.
He is survived by his wife, Martha Cappanno, and their sons Brayden, 5, and Barrett, 2; by his parents, Audrey and Dan Keep and by his siblings, Robin Johnson and Eric Keep.
Cappanno grew up in Olathe, and had deep, multi-generational roots the Montrose area. Born into the Keep family, he and his wife adopted his family’s ancestral name, Cappanno, when they married.
“Nick felt it was important to honor that heritage,” explained his sister-in-law Katie Caufield, speaking on behalf of the Cappanno family.
Nick and Martha met at church; she was a high school senior, and he had already graduated.
“Martha and Nick had an amazing relationship,” Caufield said. “It was really special. Sometimes I felt almost jealous; they had that extra spark that not all couples do. The passion was there. It could be feisty, but they were so, so in love with each other, and had so much fun together.” He was equally passionate about being a father. “The number-one reason he took a job at the mine was that his previous job in the oil industry kept him away from his family,” Caufield said. “He wanted to have dinner with his family, and tuck his kids into bed at night.”
Cappanno told remarkable bedtime stories, weaving together fact and fancy. He was the kind of dad who knew how to make ordinary, everyday events into something fun – from eating cheese and crackers to inventing a makeshift bicycle train for taking his sons to the park.
“His boys adored him,” Caufield said. “He had a teacher’s heart; he encouraged them to ask questions, be inquisitive, and to pursue their passions and dreams. There are a lot of good fathers out there, but he was a great father.”
Cappanno’s brother Eric agreed. “He was a fun-loving, wonderful father. He loved those boys to death.”
Eric remembers that his brother had a fascination for dirt bikes as a kid. Fun-loving, quick-witted and mischievous, he was forever the prankster of the family.
“He always had a smile on his face,” Eric said. “He was always going fast.” Recently, he had turned his inquisitive mind toward the making of malt brews, which he loved. It was his dream to have a fully functional malting operation, and he had just started malting barley in his garage shortly before he died.
Cappanno briefly attended college, but never graduated. Instead, he worked in several different industries, including agriculture, the oil industry, and finally, mining. He enjoyed physical work. “He really had an ability to work with his hands,” Caufield said. “He was creative; he could think outside the box, for sure.”
Although he didn’t spend much time at the Revenue-Virginius mine, he had already made plenty of friends among the miners there, many of whom have reached out to his family in the days since the accident.
“Guys were asking to take him out after work for a beer because he was such a nice guy, and so funny,” brother Eric said.
Cappanno’s Christian faith was at the core of his identity, said Caufield. “He had a deep belief and it didn’t waiver. Martha admired that about him. He didn’t question. He knew without a shadow of a doubt where he would go after he died. That might have been why he lived his life with so much enthusiasm. When it was his turn, he was ready to move on.”
VISITATION AND FUNERAL PLANNED
Visitation for family and close friends of Nick Cappanno will be held Thursday, Nov. 21, 4-6 p.m.,at Grace Community Church, 16731 Woodgate Road in Montrose, followed by public visitation at the church, 6-7:30 p.m. His funeral will take place Friday, Nov. 22, at 3 p.m., at Grace. Cremation will take place after the service.
CAPPANNO FAMILY MEMORIAL FUND
The Cappanno Family Memorial Fund as been establish through the generous support of Alpine Bank. Check donations may be dropped off at any area or statewide branch location or mailed to: Cappanno Family Memorial Fund; Care of Alpine Bank - 2770 Alpine Drive, Montrose, CO 81401. Online donations can be made at cappannomemorialfund.com. All donations will be sent directly to the Cappanno Family Memorial Fund and will be used at the discretion of Nick’s wife, Martha.
VIGIL AT OURAY MINE MEMORIAL
There will be a vigil for the two fallen miners this Saturday, Nov. 23, near the Ouray Hot Springs Pool at 4:30 p.m.