Zeno Lightfoot Dili
(1893 - 1927)
Hoistman and Hero
2022 Inductee from Mining's Past
Zeno Lightfoot Dili was an Apache underground miner from Rice (absorbed by the Town of San Carlos), Arizona. Like many other San Carlos and White Mountain Apache men in the Copper Triangle of Arizona, Dili worked in the copper mining industry.
The Apache have a long and proud history in Arizona, and by the early 1900s there were Apache mining camps at Superior, Ray, and Miami, Arizona. Dili, who is still remembered in San Carlos as a selfless man who could always be counted on, worked underground as a cage operator at the Magma Copper Company mine in Superior during the late 1920s.
In the early hours of the morning on Thanksgiving Day in 1927, a devastating fire broke out in the Magma No. 2 shaft, entrapping forty-nine men underground at the 500-ft level. Following frantic attempts to contact the trapped miners, Dili heroically offered to go down the mine to establish contact. While taking the cage back down to the 500-foot level to rescue other trapped miners, the cable snapped, and Dili was lost.
Dili’s ultimate sacrifice was noted from Arizona to Washington D.C. where it was stated that “his name is written on the roles of those who gave their all.” Dili was posthumously honored with a gold medal for his bravery and heroism by the Joseph A. Holmes Safety Association in 1935. Dili and other Apache miners’ contributions to the mining industry should be remembered as an important part of Arizona’s mining history.