President Barack Obama ordered that all U.S. flags be flown at half-staff until sunset next Sunday. In Charleston, W.Va., the deceased were honored with a ceremony and moment of silence at 3:30 p.m. Monday at the Capitol, the time that the explosion occurred on April 5.
In Gallipolis, the memory of Joshua Napper, 25, a Meigs County native who lost his life in the disaster, was honored during a brief and emotional ceremony at Holzer Senior Care Center.
Napper’s fiance, Jennifer Ziegler, and their daughter, Jenna, were warmly embraced by Ziegler’s co-workers and residents of Holzer Senior Care Center who gathered for the moment of silence. Ziegler is the director of nursing at HSCC.
Katie Shoemaker, president of the residents’ council at HSCC, read a prayer that was dedicated to Napper and the family he leaves behind.
Following the moment of silence and ceremony, Ziegler was gracious enough to take time to share a few fond thoughts about her life and relationship with Napper. She related that they met in 2002 while they were students at Hocking College in Nelsonville, later worked together and grew to become close friends.
“What I remember most about Josh is he always had a smile on his face,” Ziegler recounted tearfully. “He could always bring anybody out of a bad mood. He had the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen.”
Ziegler said Napper was a favorite among the residents at Hickory Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where the two worked together.
“Our residents loved him,” she said. “He worked night shift as a nurse. I remember he used to sing ‘Strangers in the Night’ by Frank Sinatra to the ladies that were residents.”
Outside of work, Ziegler said they shared many good times and enjoyed their relationship with each other.
“We wrestled. We played. We were very active, had a lot of friends and attended a lot of get togethers,” she recounted.
Ziegler said the couple’s daughter, Jenna, was the apple of their eye.
“The first ultrasound we saw, he said, ‘Look, Jennifer, we’re gonna have a peanut,’” Ziegler smiled. “And from that point on that was her nickname and that’s her nickname now.”
When Napper told Ziegler that he was leaving nursing to become a coal miner, she said it was hard to accept, but she also knew the profession was part of his family history.
“I was devastated,” she said. “But his family originates from West Virginia and it’s a way of life down there. His two uncles and his two cousins are coal miners, also, and he wanted to do man work. So he went over there.”
Napper’s uncle Timmy Davis, Sr., 51, and a cousin, Corey Davis, 20, also died in the blast. Napper’s uncle, Tommy Davis, and cousin, Cody Davis, survived. Ziegler said she and Napper shared a close bond with his Uncle Timmy.
Ziegler said Napper left a letter with her on Jan. 18 of this year and told her not to read the letter unless “something happened to him.”
“I kept it in my planner every day as I drove to and from work and it sat on my desk,” she said. “I never read it until my trip to West Virginia (after Napper’s death). And I turned the dome light on and I read it. At that point in time I knew that he knew what was going to happen.”
Ziegler said the couple’s last day together, Easter Sunday, April 4, will forever leave an imprint on her memory and her life.
“We were together on Easter Sunday and he gave his life to God,” she said. “It just seemed like it was such a peaceful weekend. After church, it was like everything was in place. We had an Easter egg fight with real Easter eggs, about five dozen of them, and he was the big guy, so he was the target. Even our little girl got into that.
“And I just remember him packing up his stuff in the car,” she said. “Then he kissed me on the forehead and he gave me a hug and he said, ‘I love you.’ And I told him, ‘I love you, too.’ And that was the last time I ever saw him.”
Ziegler said Napper will be laid to rest Saturday, April 17 with the funeral scheduled for noon at the Rutland Church of God. Calling hours will be held from 2-8 p.m. Friday at Anderson-McDaniel Funeral Home in Pomeroy.