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Salem woman does not let disability stop her

by Gail Marsh

ASSISTANT CITY EDITOR

SALEM -- The first thing you may notice about Loretta Davis is that she is partially disabled, a victim of polio during her grade-school years that has left her with a leg brace.

But spend an hour with Loretta, and it becomes the last thing on your mind.

I visited with Loretta at the Sperry-Davis VFW Post 9151 in Salem, where she serves as president of the ladies auxiliary. She was busy putting together the quarterly newsletter that would go out to the auxiliary's 80-plus members.

A lifelong resident of Salem, Davis is one of those rare "super volunteers," someone who has the time and desire to help others in any way she can.

It's her outlook that sets her apart from most people, a disposition that automatically thinks of others before her own needs, even though she's dependent on others for a number of things.

"I've been really fortunate, as far as most things go. I just figure there are a lot of people worse off than me, and I just keep on going," she said.

Loretta has been a member of the auxiliary for years, something she got involved with because of her late father, William C. Davis.

"My father was a charter member of the post in Salem and I watched him work with the other veterans. He was in World War II and Korea, and a lot of those people have now passed away. It's important to support the veterans that we still have," she said.

Loretta contracted polio at the age of 6, which left her partially paralyzed in her left leg and forced her to wear a back brace for years. She credits the support of her family with her good attitude on life.

"I played softball, badminton and did a lot of other things, and I owe that to my family. I remember my mom -- it hurt her as much as it did me -- but she made me try to do everything. The doctor told her not to put 'can't' in my vocabulary, and I didn't," she reminisced.

She did find out the hard way a few things she couldn't do.

"I can't ride a bicycle and I can't roller skate. Mom said she had never seen anyone so black and blue," she said, laughing.

Loretta worked following high school, at such places as the Clarksburg Casket Co., a retail store and at a family-owned business, the old Log Cabin Supper Club, where she cooked and waited tables for more than 20 years. She also helped her brother-in-law start a Dairy Dreme in Salem.

Now that she's considered officially disabled, she spends her time volunteering at the VFW or helping at her church, Victory Baptist, located near her home. No wonder she was state runner-up last year in her division for Auxiliary President of the Year.

She rattled off some of the upcoming projects, including a wiener roast at her family farm following an upcoming Vacation Bible School, a classic car show and Halloween party at the Post, and a Veteran's Day parade in downtown Salem.

Her favorite activity? Getting the youth involved and visiting with the elderly at two of the local rest homes and the veteran's hospital.

"I always enjoy doing something for the shut-ins, and they appreciate anything you do. Seeing their eyes light can just make you feel good for days," she said.

Loretta continued to work as we talked, and said she was getting things ready for the evening's auxiliary meeting. She even tried washing some storm windows, but had trouble doing the corners.

"I can't do everything I used to do, but I can usually find a way to get things done. As long as I can use my brain, I'll find a way," she said.

Assistant city editor Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at gmarsh@exponent-telegram.com.

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