Bob Burkey

“It gets into your bones. It’s weird! You’re in the open hearth, and you can hear the wind blowing down the river and making noise around the stacks. And you go into the furnace and come out. You’re all sweated and you’re standing back behind the open hearth and you’re freezing.” 

 “I always had a beard and long hair. And there was another thing, when I first started at the steel company, I was the first hippie!”


Bob Burkey, age 64, of Bethlehem, passed away in 2006 after working for 26 years at the Bethlehem Steel and earned the name “Sneakin’ Deacon”. Bob was a shop steward in Local 2600 and worked with the union on local issues. Bob transferred to the Trucking department and was able to learn about the entire plant. During this time, Bob joined the Bethlehem City Council and later worked to get the old Bethlehem Plant remodeled and a Casino built in the old plant. During the meetings between Sands and the City of Bethlehem, Bob insisted that an office in the Sands be made available to the Steelworkers’ Archives.

Bob also worked with the young people of Bethlehem and became a kind of mentor to the poets, folk musicians and rockers at the 19th-century gristmill. Among Bob’s many talents, Bob was also a silver-smith and had a store front on the North side of Bethlehem.