Sunday, May 25, 2008

Remembering Jeannette Moisan

I meant to write this on Mother's Day, but my late mom's birthday was May 25th.  She would have been 94 years old today.  My one-year blog anniversary also passed a few weeks ago, but it's only appropriate to mention it now.

I've written about my mom several times before, in Poverty, the disabled and personal responsibility, and The Salem Commission on Disabilities.  She died in Salem Hospital on the early morning of February 28th, 1994. 

I was devastated.  She was my dearest friend.  I miss her fiercely. 

Recently, I went through some old newspaper clippings, intending to scan them into the computer (I just got a new Epson scanner), and found an article about my mom that I'd been looking for for years.  I won't reproduce the whole thing (written 19 years ago, it's nowhere on line) but just the parts about Mom.  North Shore Sunday:

A Bitter Pill

Senior Citizens Find Their Access to Medications Limited Both Physically And Financially

By Mark Vogler

July 9th, 1989

Jeannette Moisan navigates across the sidewalk in her motorized wheelchair, checking the pavement for ruts or bumps that might jar the insides of her sensitive body. She keeps her eyes peeled for wayward motorists as she approaches the pedestrian crosswalk.

Even on a hot summer day, a roll through the streets of downtown Salem is an enjoyable journey for Moisan, who lost her ability to walk about nine years ago when she began suffering the pains of rheumatoid arthritis, a crippling disease that attacks the joints and leaves her arms and legs puffy.

A seven minute wheelchair ride might seem like a lot of trouble for a 75 year-old handicapped woman to put herself through just for the sake of buying medication from the local drug store. In addition to the condition, which causes her body to swell up so badly she can’t bend her fingers, she has heart problems and high blood pressure. She says she also suffers from angina, a disease of the throat or chest which is marked by painful choking spasms.

The CVS Pharmacy on Essex Street at Salem’s pedestrian mall, where she prefers to shop, could just as easily deliver drugs to her home. But the fiercely independent woman on wheels would rather do things her way.

“I love going out and looking around the stores just seeing what I need, like everyone else,” says Moisan, whose smiling face hides any sign of pain as she drives herself around town like a kid on a go-cart.

“I want to act as if I’m not sick, I can’t afford to have a car. So, this is my pleasure car. This is my good time,” she says.

But on any given day, Moisan’s pleasure trip can turn into a bittersweet experience, since her wheelchair can’t fit through the store entrance unless the two double doors are held store entrance unless the two doubled doors are held wide open for her. Sometimes it's a 15 to 20 minute wait. Sometimes no­body's available or willing to hold the doors open.

"I've gone to the drug store a couple of times, but had to turn around and come back because I couldn't get in. Sometimes, peo­ple just don't want to help and they just pass you by," says Moi­san, who personally opened the doors of her own home to more than 400 children during her life­time — abandoned children who lived with her while she worked for the state or various private charitable organizations as a fos­ter parent.

Opening the doors of North Shore pharmacies so they are ac­cessible to all wheelchaired cus­tomers has become Moisan's lat­est mission in life.

And, a photo:


Mom is the white-haired lady in the scooter.  Two passers-by helped her get into the CVS on Essex St. downtown.

Things are better at that particular CVS--it was remodeled a few years after her death;  it, and almost all other CVS stores in the area have automatic doors, as does Walgreens.

However, there are still many other  establishments that aren't accessible.  My optician--Banville Optical, on Lafayette St., the only optician in downtown Salem proper--is not accessible via wheelchair.  (One disabled resident, a regular attendee of our commission meetings, has filed a complaint with the state Architectural Access Board.  We wish her luck.)

What my mom did for me and the 400 other children in her care is unsurpassable.  She looms very large in my life.  The North Shore Sunday reporter called her "feisty".  She was that and then some.  She is of a generation in Salem that is going away.

I don't expect to be as feisty or as good as she was.

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