The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 11, 2013

Polio and Pinky McDonnell



Pinky spent many months at Iowa City in an iron lung, then traveled for therapy to Warm Springs, Georgia, in a valiant effort to recuperate. Pinky would later recall many of his friends at Warm Springs mentioning what they, as young adults, had in common; namely, that they were often guilty of burning the candle at both ends. But then, youngsters became paralyzed too -- and of ALL ages!


Many people back then didn’t realize that we had a United States President who’d once been a polio victim and could no longer walk, as a result. Franklin Delano Roosevelt frequently hid his debilitation from the public eye. People in those unenlightened times didn’t understand and would often look askance at “a Cripple.” However, the courage of Roosevelt, Pinky McDonnell, and others helped to change that perception. Today’s terminology would be “person with a handicap.”


When Pinky got home in 1950, the family set up his bed in the living room, from which he nodded as all passers-by waved. Often Pinky’s room would be filled with kids watching television in the dark, because he had one of the first ones around. Naturally, he had one of the first air-conditioners, too. His family and the whole neighborhood helped out over the years by taking him to ball games and to many of his civic commitments. Somehow, everyone who knew him seemed to learn of compassion and caring for others through Pinky’s plight.


Indeed, Pinky McDonnell went on to great success in life. He served on many state and local civic committees and was Clinton’s Councilman-at-Large in the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s and even acted as Mayor Pro Tempore several times. He received many honors.


Despite being paralyzed for nearly forty years, and only barely able to move his head and one hand, Pinky became a successful and influential citizen, who gave great example to the thousands of people whom he met and worked with and for.

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