🌲🏘️🌳 History 20th Century History 1958: Teenage Polio Survivor’s Wheelchair Stolen from driveway… then replaced

1958: Teenage Polio Survivor’s Wheelchair Stolen from driveway… then replaced

LI Polio Victim’s Wheel Chair Is Taken by Thief

December 11, 1958 by Jane Gerard and Marty Buskin, Newsday

A 24-year-old polio victim whose legs are paralyzed sits and waits today in the forlorn hope that a thief will ease her physical suffering—by returning her wheel chair.

The wheel chair was used by Joan Wilkinson in a complicated daily routine that enabled her to hold down successfully a job as a doctor’s receptionist in Glen Cove. She was able to drive her specially-equipped car to her job from her home at 33 Knoll Lane despite the fact that a polio attack in 1947 left her without the use of both legs.

“I had two wheel chairs,” Joan explained. “One I used to get as far as the car door in the morning. Then when I got to work I had another waiting in the driveway to take me as far as the door of the office. Someone there would meet me when I arrived and carry me upstairs to the office.” When Joan returned home, the first wheel chair would be waiting in her driveway and she would use that to get into her house.

But a few days before Thanksgiving Joan returned home and found that the wheel chair that should have been waiting in the driveway was gone. She reported the loss to police and placed an ad in Newsday which told of her plight: “Lost. Wheelchair from vicinity Roslyn Country Club.”

She even checked with the sanitation department, thinking that a garbage collector might have picked up the chair by mistake. But such was not the case. The days went by and the chair was still missing. Joan said the cost of replacing the chair would range from $125 to $150.

“Now the only way I can manage is to wheel myself to the car in the morning, lug the one wheel chair inside and take it with me to work,” she explained. “Then I take it out again and someone carries it upstairs. When I leave it must be carried into the car and then taken out again at home.”

So now Joan struggles to work each day with her one wheel chair and her courage, hoping that a remorseful thief will come to her aid.


Polio Girl’s Stolen Wheel Chair Replaced

December 13, 1958 by Haig Chekenian, Newsday

A polio victim’s appeal for the return of her stolen wheel chair was answered yesterday–but not by the thief.

Thanks to Chester A. Mallen of 19 North St., Huntington Station, who read of the girl’s plight in Newsday two days ago, 24-year-old Joan Wilkinson will have a wheel chair this week end.

Mullen, a World War II Navy veteran who served in the Pacific was given the collapsible chair about a year ago by an amputee friend who no longer needed it. Mullen had been keeping it ever since for someone who could really make use of it.

Mullen, the father of two children, works as a refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic for the Long Island Ice Cream Corp., Huntington Station. He is making the gift to Miss Wilkinson through Nathan Hale Post 1469, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Huntington Station.

When she heard of the gift, Miss Wilkinson said, *It’s just what I needed- a collapsible wheel chair. I can never thank them enough for their kindness.”

Miss Wilkinson, who has been unable to use her legs since a polio attack 11 years ago, had two wheel chairs, which enabled her to hold down a job as a doctor’s receptionist in Glen Cove.

Every day, she would use one wheel chair to get to her specially-equipped car. She would leave that chair in the driveway of her home, 33 Knoll Lane, Roslyn Heights. After driving to work, she would get into another one waiting in the driveway and take it to the door of her office. Someone would then carry her upstairs.

Just before Thanksgiving, she arrived home one night to find that the wheel chair in her driveway had been stolen. A report to police and an ad in Newsday asking for the return of the chair proved futile. She has had to carry the other wheel chair back and fourth in her car every day since. Now, thanks to the gift, she will be able to continue working without that extra added burden.