Debbie Penniston’s husband, Bob, died at 50 from an inoperable brain tumor in 2008. He had worked 27 years as an engineer at the KC Plant, the nuclear weapons parts plant at Bannister Federal Complex. Penniston walked 10 miles with PeaceWorks from the complex to the new plant on Memorial Day and shared her story. Excerpts:

I would like to tell you about my love story with a man who was taken tragically from brain cancer that I believe was caused by the toxins at the KC Plant.

My husband and I loved spending time together. I used to jokingly say to him, “I wish you could buy additional vacation so we could have more time together.” I cherished the times we had coffee together and discussed future plans. Then our son was born. Our love story grew even bigger to include Robert. We did a lot of making plans, laughing, playing tricks on each other, and having fun as a family.

When Bob was diagnosed in April of 2008, our beautiful love story was shattered. The planning, laughing, and pulling tricks ended. Treatment started. Bob only got worse. He would fall, say things that didn’t make sense, and he lost muscle mass in his legs. He began bleeding profusely at our home and then died at Research Hospital.

I had had a beautiful marriage, but my 16-year-old son was left without his father. Bob and Robert were extremely close. My son had Gone But Not Forgotten tattooed on his back. That is his only tattoo, a tribute to his dad.

We can’t let more of these love stories end.

If contamination continues like the KC Plant allowed and hid from its employees, other love stories will be shattered.

Why didn’t those who knew about the toxins and dangers in this plant tell employees they could run the risk of getting sick or dying, and allow the employees to find employment elsewhere? How dare them? How dare them?

Periodic background checks were done on my husband and other engineers to be sure they were still the best they could be. How ironic. Maybe the engineers should have been checking out those at the top to see if they were being honest and not covering up one big lie about the horrible conditions these men and women worked in.

Photo: Debbie Penniston, with her husband’s picture on her poster, leads walkers past the new nuke-parts plant and toward the entry road for the PeaceWorks program. —Jim Hannah photo