In 2005, the late Mike Solski was named to the Community Builders Hall of Fame.
Solski was a larger than life character, the protagonist of an epic story spanning the 20th century about a rough and ready mining town that became a regional capital.
He was a labour leader, mayor of Coniston, a community visionary, and a historian.
He died at the age of 81 in 1999. At the time, he was still contributing to the community as a member of the Sudbury Regional Restructuring Association.
Born and raised in Coniston, he spent most of his life in the community. In 1935, like his father before him, he obtained employment at the Coniston smelter at the age of 17. He worked his way up the ladder, retiring at the age of 59 as a Surplus Coordinator of the Central Assets Department.
In 1939, Solski married Irene Horrick. The couple were both actively involved in various recreational pursuits. As a teenager, Mike was a devoted trombone player who participated in the Coniston Band (though his interests shifted to other activities over the years). Irene was one of the best softball players in the district, playing on many championship-winning teams from 1935 to the early 1950s.
Solski became involved in municipal politics in 1944 and along with Bill Coppo and Jack Carrey, became the first councillor to be elected in 1945, He remained in politics until 1948.
Solski was a founding member of Mine Mill Local 598 and he became a full-time union representative. Through his dedication and hard work for the union and his solid reputation, Solski earned the position of President of Local 598, and even National Vice-President of the Mine Mill Union.
The Sudbury local represented almost 20,000 workers at Inco and Falconbridge and was the largest union local in Canada for a time.
With his role as union leader coming to an end in 1963 — when the Steelworkers won the bargaining rights for Inco — Solski returned to politics and for the next 16 years, served as Mayor of Coniston (and later as Mayor of the Town of Nickel Centre when Regional Government was formed in 1973). Solski played an active role in all three levels of politics.
On Nov.15, 1978, while officiating at his last council meeting as Mayor of Nickel Centre, Romeo Kerim (a highly disturbed individual) attempted to assassinate Solski. He was shot three times and though he survived the attack, the event left him handicapped.
After recovering from the incident, Solski focused his interest on writing and is credited with the creation of The Coniston Story, was co-author of a book on the history of the Mine Mill and Smelter Workers’ Union in Canada, and wrote a section about Coniston for a book entitled The Industrial Communities of the Sudbury Basin.
Material compiled from The Coniston Story II and Sudbury Heritage Museums.