Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lewiston, Idaho, square honors polio victim who never gave up

Brackenbury Square in Lewiston, Idaho
There are two good ways to travel Highway 12 east through Lewiston, Idaho. The first is to take an immediate right turn after crossing the Blue Bridge from Clarkston, Washington. It loops around under the bridge and you follow the Snake River by the "Wave" canoe statue and by the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers. This is the signed route. It’s more fun to stay on the road that takes you through the tree-lined Main Street of Old Lewiston.

This one-way street will take motorists by Brackenbury Square, named in honor of a Lewiston resident who overcame adversities to thrive in this town. The entrance to this small park is marked by a statue of children playing in a fountain. Take time to enjoy the serenity of this small square; be warned, though, on-street parking sometimes can be difficult to find.

Mary Case Brackenbury grew up in Lewiston’s Hotel Idaho that was owned by her parents. Using the name Launi, she became a professional Polynesian dancer on the vaudeville circuit. In 1953, after dancing at a March of Dimes fundraiser, she was stricken with polio and placed in an iron lung. After a lengthy recovery, she came back to the Hotel Idaho to run the hotel, raise three children and care for her mother. Her husband, Rod Brackenbury, died from wasp stings on a 1957 hunting trip.

When people saw her children taking lessons in international dances, they, too, wanted to learn those dances. Soon he teaches and students were giving costumed presentations throughout the region, with proceeds going to the National Polio Foundation. Mary was named a March of Dimes mother of the year; she died in 1970 from complications of polio.

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