Sunday, May 11, 2008

"CastingThe Vote of A Lifetime"

I just received this article from Hillary Clinton's Rapid Responders, and it literally had me in tears.

Casting the vote of a lifetime
Dying woman realizes a dream in marking ballot for Hillary, then Bill Clinton sends her a kiss.
By Kevin Woster, Journal staff Sunday, May 11, 2008

They figure the next best thing came April 29 for the 88-year-old Rapid City woman, when she rallied long enough in her bed at Rapid City Regional Auxiliary Hospice House to cast her vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

To a woman born seven months before her gender won the right to vote in August 1920, seeing Clinton's name on a presidential ballot and marking her vote nearby was a dream realized, Steen's daughter, Kathy Krause, said.

"She was just very happy that day," Krause said. "She really rallied and was sitting up in bed talking to people. That was the best day we've had."

There haven't been many good days lately for Steen, who is suffering from congestive heart failure a year after a stroke began her downhill slide toward hospice. But even sliding hour by hour toward the inevitable, Steen found the strength to study and mark the absentee ballot that her daughter brought to her room.

"I had asked her if she wanted to vote, and she said, 'Yes, I really would like to vote for Hillary,'" Krause said. "So I filled out the papers. She signed them, and I went to the courthouse and got the ballot."

To add an air of patriotic celebration to the occasion, family friend Louise Engelstad brought a United States flag from her garden, and she and Kruase draped it behind Steen's bed.

"Then I got mother her glasses, and she sat up. She was very alert, very serious in studying the ballot," Krause said. "And when she marked it, she just kept circling and circling that mark with her pencil. I thought she was going to mark a hole in it."

Krause, who had already voted for Clinton by absentee ballot, said her mother's health has deteriorated sharply since the day she voted.

But the vote set in motion a warm response from both Bill and Hillary Clinton.

When informed of Steen's condition and vote by the Journal, Clinton's campaign staff provided a comment from the New York senator, who appeared in Sioux Falls Thursday.

"I'm so flattered to have the support of Florence and so many like her," Clinton said. "I have met so many women from my mother's generation who come up to me and say they were born before women could vote and now want to see a woman in the White House."

Then, family friends and campaign staffers informed Bill Clinton of Steen's vote, and on Saturday, he sent word that he wanted to meet Krause and her husband, who were at Stevens High School for his speech.

"They called my husband and said the president wanted to meet us," Krause said.

When they went to meet him, "He expressed his sympathy for my mother's failing health," she said. "He said he was really sorry and he understood our loss. He really appreciated that my mom had made an effort to get out and vote for Hillary by absentee ballot. He has great respect for women of my mother's generation."

Krause said Clinton had tears in his eyes when he spoke to her and told her to go and give her mother a kiss for him.

She did just that, though she isn't sure if her mother understands that she met Clinton.

Sitting by her bed every day, Krause remembers a mother who was both comforting and inspirational.

"I suppose everyone who is losing their mother thinks the same thing: She was always there," Krause said. "She taught me to excel in everything I did. She always wanted my daughter and me to be able to take care of ourselves and have an assertive role in our own lives."

Krause said her mother was a survivor, a quality that Clinton has shown in her life and in the presidential campaign.

"I think there are a lot of similarities between them," Krause said. "My mother certainly doesn't have the wealth or notoriety or reputation. But she's been a survivor, just like Hillary. And whether you like her (Clinton) or not, she's a survivor. You have to respect her for that."

Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or (

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