Clyde and Pat Braegger, members of the Providence, Utah, 3rd Ward, have been "wheeling" together since May 17, 1962.
Although polio dealt them physical handicaps and they're confined to wheelchairs, they've found success in community and Church service, plus happiness in 25 years of marriage.After completing an eight-year term as mayor of Providence, a town of about 3,000 people in northern Utah, Braegger has just been elected to serve as a council member in a new form of Cache County government.
Sister Braegger is on the Providence City Council, the first woman to serve in what has always been a man's domain in the city.
They've also served in the Church. Braegger has been elders quorum president and now serves as high priests group leader. Sister Braegger has served in the Relief Society and Young Women and currently works with the ward Young Adults.
Polio may have slowed them down in some areas, but it has never kept them from enjoying life and each other.
Sister Braegger was 15 when she contracted polio in August 1951. She became paralyzed from the neck down. She later regained use of her left hand and minimal use of her right hand.
"Now friends tease me about being paralyzed from the neck up," she joked.
In addition to civic work, she writes for the Cache Citizen, a local weekly newspaper. She also spends many hours working on Church assignments and is frequently called upon to write skits, verses or programs. One of her dreams is to publish a "good piece of writing."
Braegger came down with polio when he was 9 months old. His transportation went in graduated steps from a wicker baby buggy to a round, three-wheeled skateboard and then to propelling himself with his hands on a roller skate. In recent years, he has "gone conventional" in a wheelchair and is looking toward a battery-operated chair soon. He designed hand controls for his first automobile but now uses a commercially built control. The couple's van with a lift further frees them to move about.
He recently retired from a Logan business machine shop and now spends much of his time working on local history. He chairs the Cache Historical Preservation Commission. The Braeggers were on a committee that wrote a 500-page history of Providence, and he's now a member of a committee working on a history of nearby Millville.
Their love for history and writing extends back to when they first met.
"We didn't play tennis or go dancing," Sister Braegger recalled. "But we read e.e. cummings and Voltaire in early spring pastures. We drank in October reds and yellows up nearby canyons. We held hands to Grieg and Wagner and wrote long midnight letters and dreamed."
After every date, Braegger would pull into her driveway, honk the horn and wait for her dad to come out and carry her into the house. They courted for six years. She said her dad "was relieved when they were married because he wouldn't have to listen for Clyde honking late at night anymore."
Throughout their lives they have found famiy and friends willing to help. Their first home was a community project, as many people became involved in finishing the house after Braegger's father put up the main structure. Friends also assisted in designing a lift to increase the couple's mobility around the house and from the wheelchair into their vehicles. The first lift was a noisy combination of a jeep winch and the hydraulic equipment from an old hay loader. A later lift caused some problems, dumping Braegger upside down into the car and then dropping him head first on the garage floor. But later versions have proved more effective, and Braegger is looking at the possiblity of marketing a lift to help a greater number of people with limited mobility.
Struggles with mobility have been only a few of the challenges they have faced. But they've never let their handicaps get the best of them.
"We had to learn to laugh at our selves," Sister Braegger said. "We had to learn to be patient and to view things in the right perspective."
"We seldom have to ask for help," Braegger said. "Neighbors just drop by to push wheelchairs through snow or sun, to swaddle us for cold weather trips to Church, to shovel driveways on snowy mornings. We are always opening the door on nice surprises."
Some people might think that life has not been kind to the Braeggers, but they disagree.
"Nobody said it would be easy," Sister Braegger said. "We're familiar with hospitals, with mobility frustrations, with the same stresses common to everybody. But it's been worth it. We've decided it's `go' for the next 25."