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Woman who helped open Ironton-Russell bridge dies at 104

Verna “Bunn” Sloan and her daughter, Jo Ann Steinbeck, look on as family and friends sing ‘Happy Birthday’ at a celebration of Sloan’s 104th birthday in November 2019. (Submitted photo)

Sloan was former Lawrence County General Hospital worker

One of two women who were the last passengers across the old Ironton-Russell bridge and the first across the new Oakley C. Collins Memorial Bridge has died at age 104.

Vera “Bunn” Sloan, a native of Pollard, Kentucky, who lived in Ironton, died Wednesday at Harbor Health Care.

“She was a very pleasant lady,” Veronica Nunley, a nurse at the facility, said, and recalled her sense of humor. “And she loved to cut up.”

Born Nov. 15, 1915, Sloan was chosen by organizers at the opening of the bridge to represent the Ohio side and rode, along with Della Burton, of Russell, Kentucky, in a 1926 Model T across both spans at the Nov. 23, 2016 opening ceremony. Sloan was 102 and Burton was 101 at the time.

Both could remember the Ohio River before a bridge existed.

“I hate to see it go, but it’s due,” she said of the 94-year-old bridge, which closed to traffic that day and was demolished a few months later.

Burton, died in March 2017 at age 101.

At her 104th birthday party, Sloan’s family told The Tribune she got her nickname when she born on the first day of rabbit season and her father ‘I don’t have to go rabbit hunting today, I have my own little bunny.”

She was retired from the registration department at Lawrence County General Hospital and volunteered many years with the hospital following her 1979 retirement, receiving recognition for 5,000 hours of service. She was a member of Church of Christ in Ironton and volunteered in their food pantry, and was a volunteer with the American Red Cross.

Sloan will be buried at Woodland Cemetery on Saturday.

(The Tribune/Heath Harrison) Verna “Bunn” Sloan pets Angel from Good News Llamas during a visit to Harbor HealthCare of Ironton in 2018.