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Reagan Promises To Help Family With Disabled Mother

December 24, 1987

BLOUNTSTOWN, Fla. (AP) _ President Reagan telephoned a family in this panhandle town, promising to send a donation to help in its 30-year struggle to care for a blind, partially paralyzed and brain-damaged mother of two.

R.L. Alford said Reagan was moved to make the call Wednesday after reading a newspaper article about how the family helped care for Hilda Alford, who was seriously injured in a 1957 traffic accident.

″The president told me it was wonderful all the good I’d done over the years,″ said Alford, a 51-year-old distributor for Texaco. ″I said, ’Mr. President, you’ve done a good job, too. I know you’ve taken a lot of flak over the years, but you’ve done well.‴

He said Reagan replied, ″Well, after reading the article, it doesn’t seem nearly as awesome as your task.″

The president then promised to send a check to a church fund established to help care for the 49-year-old Mrs. Alford, who during the past year has faced mounting medical bills because of seizures, kidney problems and depression.

The amount was not disclosed, but the Panama City News Herald, which published the family’s story, and a state Republican official who showed the article to Reagan on Wednesday said they would match whatever the president gave.

Mrs. Alford had been married to Alford only 10 months when an ambulance hit the car in which she was a passenger. At first, it appeared she would suffer only minor injuries, but a blood clot formed in her head and cut off circulation to her brain.

Mrs. Alford was left blind, unable to walk and with limited use of her hands and arms. She was hospitalized for seven months, and her husband visited her daily.

She was able to give birth to two children, Jonathan, 24, and Juanice, 21. Because Mrs. Alford couldn’t walk, her husband carried her to the hospital and to doctors appointments during the pregnancies.

″We’ve had a difficult life,″ he said. ″But it’s been good, rewarding in a lot of ways.″

Mrs. Alford, barely able to talk, served as her husband’s adviser as he reared the children. Today, he continues to feed, bathe and dress his wife daily.

″I have relied on my faith all these years,″ Alford said. ″If I hadn’t had that, I’m not sure what I would have done.″

Jonathan Alford, a senior at Florida State University, said that only in recent years has he fully appreciated what his parents have accomplished.

″I never realized how tough it was until I got older and could look back,″ he said. ″Most days it seemed pretty normal because that is all we had ever really known. We didn’t have anything to compare it to.″

Jonathan recalled that he and Juanice would come straight home from school to take care of their mother while their father was at work.

″We couldn’t socialize as much as the other kids,″ he said. ″But I think it made us all stronger because of all the situations and ordeals we’ve had to go through.″

A cousin of the Alford’s asked former state Republican Party Chairman Tommy Thomas of Panama City to speak with Reagan about the family.

During a visit to the White House on Wednesday, Thomas showed Reagan an article about the Alfords published last month in the Panama City newspaper.

″This is the kind of thing the president wants to know about,″ said Jim Kearce, Mrs. Alford’s cousin. ″This is a story that needed to be shared.″

Alford said his wife was tired but carefully listened from bed to his half of the 10-minute conversation with the president.

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