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Record-Setting Pole Sitter Adjusts To Life On Earth

March 25, 1988

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ After nearly a year and a half perched atop two 43-foot poles to raise money for cancer research, Mellissa L. Sanders came down to earth to a place in the record books and the fiance she has never dated.

″Everything looks so small, so different from here,″ Miss Sanders, 19, said Thursday after a fire truck’s bucket brought her down from the three- story-high shack where she spent 517 days with her feline companion, Pole Cat.

″My knees are wobbly but I feel great,″ said Miss Sanders, who was embraced by her mother, Mauri Rose Sanders.

″Without the cat, I would never have made it,″ she said. ″It was pretty cramped quarters, but it wasn’t so bad. I’ll miss it.″

Miss Sanders’ shack in the sky measured 6-by-7-by-9 feet. It had a plastic kiddie pool for bathing, a chemical toilet, television and a telephone that resulted in regular $300 phone bills.

Among the 1,000 people waiting on the ground for Miss Sanders was her fiance, 25-year-old Keith Seal of Monterey, Calif.

″She’s kind of hesitant,″ Seal said. ″She’s wondering what’s going to happen and knows she’ll miss all the attention.″

The pole sitter thanked her sponsors, and accepted bouquets and contributions. Then she climbed into a stretch limousine for a drive around town. Miss Sanders said she was looking forward to ″a good long walk and a real shower.″

She raised $10,000 for cancer research, but had hoped her effort would bring $100,000. Her sister, Rebecca, has cancer and has been in remission for four years.

The Tucson, Ariz., native broke the world pole sitting record Feb. 26 when she overtook the 488-day mark set by Mark Sutton of Victoria, British Columbia, winning her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Pole sitting runs in the family. Her mother set a record in 1959 by spending 211 days in the air.

″I’m sure she’ll look back on this with fond memories,″ said Miss Sanders’ aunt, Tanya Bowles of Indianapolis. ″Maybe she saved a life by doing this. And that’s about all you can ask for.″

Firefighters were on hand to make sure Miss Sanders got down safely.

″She’s going to look up and be lonely when she passes by here next,″ said Perry Township Fire Chief David Betzner. ″It’s been her home and when you take someone out of their home - no matter how much they want to go - they’re going to look back with longing.″

However, Seal said Miss Sanders was not coming down a moment too soon. ″I’ve been waiting a year for this,″ he said.

Mrs. Sanders agreed it was time for her daughter to return to earth.

″All this doesn’t seem real,″ said Mrs. Sanders. ″We want her back with us, but honestly it seems like only yesterday that she went up there.″

Before coming down, Miss Sanders said there ″were some real sad times, times that were real hard.″

″But I always knew I would make it, even when I was scared or going through hard times,″ said Miss Sanders, who rode out 70 mph winds during a February snowstorm.

Miss Sanders plans to return to Arizona in May, and hopes to go to a trade school there.

Seal first contacted Miss Sanders after reading a newspaper story about her in November 1986. They communicated, but did not meet in person until November 1987.

″Now that she’s getting down, we have to start dating,″ said Seal. ″I mean we’re already engaged and we haven’t even gone on a date.″

He predicted that the next time the couple passed by the intersection where they first met, ″I’ll probably look up, then over to her and say she was crazy for spending a year and a half of her life up there.″

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