Laree Holt Whitney: Courage the Key to Success

Lola Hutchison came to my door a couple of weeks ago with a pleasant surprise. She had been going through old files and came across some newspaper articles about Steve's grandma. They have been a treasure to read; she must have been unknowingly saving them for us. 

This article was printed in the Ogden Standard-Examiner in 1982. 

Courage the Key to Success

Editor's Note: There are currently 438 handicapped and disabled students attending Weber State. Every day demands courage and determination from these special students as they cope to assimilate into an often cruel and unfeeling world. The very fact that they are here, in college, proves they are survivors. Every day we can gain strength and inspiration from their example. 

Nineteen hundred and fifty-four was the year of the short curly hair cut called the Poodle. It was the year when pedal-pushers were becoming popular and Marilyn Monroe was the latest sex symbol. The year before, Elizabeth Kenny, famous for her fight for muscle re-education of polio victims, had died. One more year would see the arrival of the polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk. 

That wouldn't be until 1955. Prior to the vaccine there was little protection against the disease that devastated thousands of people, leaving them at best with impaired health, at worst crippled or dead. 

LaRee Whitney was a young mother and wife that year. Her youngest child was barely five months old. Then disaster struck--she contracted polio. LaRee survived the disease but was left confined for a life to a wheel chair. With the help of her husband Robert, her mother, sister and many caring friends and neighbors, she was able to return home from the hospital and resume her life as wife and mother. 

She and her husband raised their children and saw them well on their ways to lives of their own. Then, instead of submitting to a life of mid-morning coffee breaks and afternoon soap operas, LaRee decided she was ready for a new challenge. She decided to return to college and train for a career. 

LaRee said that what frightened her the most about returning to school wasn't dealing with her handicap or the logistics of traveling to classes in a wheel chair, but the fear that she was out of her league competing with the younger students. 

Once enrolled in classes, however, LaRee found that she quickly became reaccustomed to studying. Unable to take notes herself, she tried to tape record all the lectures. She found that she could not study effectively this way and decided to return to note-taking. This is the only thing that LaRee relies on another student to do for her. She does all her own research and typing. 

LaRee was settling into a comfortable routine when disaster struck once again. Two quarters into school, she was involved in a car accident that threatened to end her college career and her life. 

LaRee's ribs were crushed and punctured her lungs, her spleen had to be removed, and she developed pneumonia. For ten weeks she fought for her life in an intensive care unit. "All I could think of was getting better and retuning to school," she said. In the aftermath of a nearly fatal accident, LaRee was worried about missing finals!

She received her grades in spite of missing finals and returned to school last summer quarter to resume her studies. Then a new problem cropped up. LaRee discovered she must use a respirator at night to avoid the constant danger of pneumonia caused by her weakened lungs. 

How is she doing now? LaRee began winter quarter with her usual determination. She chose an English major and is concentrating on getting that degree so she can tutor. She is also taking classes in reading and Spanish so that she can work with students who have reading problems or are learning English as a second language. 

. . . . . 

LaRee received the Crystal Crest Award from Weber State College for her excellence, courage, and determination. She graduated cum laude in 1984 with a BA degree in English/History. She also graduated from LDS Institute. 

I really didn't know much about Grandma Whitney's successes and accomplishments before she passed away. But there was always such a feeling of reverence around her that I knew she was a special woman. I am grateful to have been able to meet her. And I am truly grateful for the example that she set for her posterity and the legacy that she left behind. 

1 comment:

Gloria said...

Thanks for sharing that Emily. I have this article too along with many others about my mother. What an example of constant faith and courage she always was and will always be to me!