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Twp. lends helping hand to disabled voter

Oxford residents Dick and Peggy Reddaway are grateful to the township for its assistance on Election Day. (click for larger version)
August 11, 2010 - The 73.61 percent of Oxford voters who didn't bother to visit the polls during last week's primary election should consider the story of Dick Reddaway.

Despite having Huntington's Disease, which has robbed him of his ability to walk and care for himself on a day-to-day basis, the 63-year-old township resident was able to cast his ballot thanks to some helpful government folks.

Normally, Dick votes via an absentee ballot. But this year he didn't get one due to a simple oversight on the part of his wife Peggy.

"He didn't receive a ballot because I didn't apply for it. (The township) didn't do anything wrong," she explained. "I just wasn't thinking. I thought the envelope we received had the ballot in it. It was just the application. I know better."

On Election Day, Peggy went to the township office hoping to obtain an absentee ballot for her husband, but unfortunately, it was too late. The deadlines had elapsed.

The clerk's department checked to see if Dick qualified for an emergency ballot due to his homebound status, but he was not eligible.

Seeing how important this was to Peggy, township Supervisor Bill Dunn followed her back to her house on Pointe Drive and helped load Dick into his special van.

Dunn then rode with them to their polling site, Christ the King Church on W. Drahner Rd.

"I have always liked that Bill Dunn," Peggy said. "He's a go-getter and a hands-on guy. He doesn't mind rolling up his sleeves. He just goes to bat for people. I love that about him. He's indicative of a lot of people in Oxford."

When they got to the church, two election workers, Precinct 4 Chair Michelle Whitt and Poll Worker Jeanette Lepping, brought a ballot out to the van.

"They were very good. They made everything so easy," Peggy said.

The clerk's department called ahead to let them know that curbside assistance was needed.

One by one, Peggy read off the candidate names to Dick, then marked his choices on the ballot while the election workers stood by as witnesses.

"He said 'yes' when I hit the one he wanted," she said.

Although his verbal communication skills are severely limited, Dick can say a few words and his mind is still quite sound.

"He understands everything," Peggy said. "He knows exactly what everybody's talking about. You can tell by all of his reactions. He can't comment on a lot of things, but his reactions are always appropriate."

After voting, Dunn rode back with the Reddaways, helped bring Dick into the house and placed him in his favorite chair.

"It went smoothly. And it was all done in just a few minutes," Peggy said."It worked out great. It was a great story."

A task as simple as voting may not seem like a big deal to some, but for Dick it's a way to stay connected and involved in the world.

"I try so hard to keep his life as much like it used to be. He's lost so much," said Peggy, who noted he was diagnosed with Huntington's Disease in 1995.

She said voting's always been extremely important to him.

"He's never missed voting – ever. Even in a primary," Peggy said. "He was always bugging everybody else about voting – asking them if they had, encouraging them to if they hadn't. He's very patriotic that way."

Dick takes all of his civic duties very seriously.

"He's always thought of jury duty as a privilege and an honor, not a burden," Peggy said. "A lot of people try to get out of it, not him."

Peggy was extremely grateful to Dunn, Whitt and Lepping for making it possible for her husband to exercise his rights.

"They're awesome, just like everybody else in Oxford," she said. "We've been here over 30 years and this is the best place in the world. I don't know why everybody doesn't live in Oxford."

While Dunn appreciated Peggy's thanks, he said she's the real hero in this story for sticking by her husband's side and taking care of him 24-7.

"What she does for him on a daily basis is amazing," he said. "I have so much respect for her. She has a lot of strength and a lot of love for him. What I did was nothing compared to what she does. I'm just glad I could help in some small way."

Peggy just sees herself as keeping a vow.

"I promised him I would never put him in a home. That he would stay here," she said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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