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Bobbi-Lee Jeselskis of Lisbon Falls is the oldest daughter of 2nd Congressional District candidate Dale Crafts.
As a mother to four children ranging in age from 8 to 18, I have learned that being a parent comes with a wide range of emotions and difficulty. There are days that raising my kids with my husband in our little Maine town is downright idyllic, and there are those other days — you know the ones I’m talking about.
I guess what I’m trying to say is being a parent is hard, rewarding work.
As my kids have grown, it has given me a chance to reflect on my own childhood and how typically untypical it was for me and my five siblings. As the oldest, my take on our childhood is unique because I got to watch my father grow in his role as Dad with each child.
My first memories of my father are different from all the others that I have. That’s because he could walk. In 1983 when I was 3 years old, my dad, Dale Crafts, was paralyzed from the chest down in a motorcycle accident. Life changed a lot for all of us, but obviously the most for my dad.
After months in the hospital, my family came together to help my dad adjust to his new life on wheels. I watched as he learned how to get in and out of his wheelchair and depend on others to drive him around. He very quickly learned that his independence — and ours as a family — depended on his ability to drive around himself.
After trying to find what could help him do just that, he came up empty. Ever the entrepreneur, he co-founded Mobility Plus, a company dedicated to finding new technologies for handicapped people to drive and travel on their own. It is one of his proudest ventures. In fact, when you step into his office today, there is a framed advertisement of him and me inside one of his prototype vans.
As I grew older and my father and stepmother had more children, I watched my father forge his own path towards a better life for our family. He has always been able to think outside the box and rarely buckled when anyone said it couldn’t be done.
In the mid ‘90s, my dad got an idea to build a fishing boat in Maine and send it to Grenada. It was a way to start a new business and showcase Maine ingenuity to a new part of the world. Our family ended up moving to Grenada for a few months while my dad worked out the particulars. In the end, that venture didn’t work out, but even today he is remembered as the wild guy in the wheelchair to many of the friends we keep up with from our stay on the island.
When we moved back home, my father went back into the family business selling cars in Lisbon Falls. My grandfather had shuttered the car dealership for a few years as he looked towards retirement. Once again, I watched as my dad brought something to life.
Never letting grass grow too quickly under his wheelchair, my dad saw another opportunity in our town. My uncle owned an old chicken barn on Route 9 in Lisbon Falls where he rented space for people to store their stuff. My dad bought that barn and turned it into one of the first self-storage businesses in the state. Fast forward to today and Crafts Self Storage has three locations in Lisbon and Topsham.
Through all of this, my dad was still in a wheelchair. He never let anything stop him from pursuing his American dream. He taught all of us kids that in America even a guy in a wheelchair can succeed if you work hard, play by the rules, and never quit. I’m thankful that my father is still helping to teach those same lessons to my children.
Now, he’s running for Congress to bring that same attitude to Washington. I know my dad won’t ever quit on Maine people. The word just isn’t in his vocabulary.
I hope you will join me in voting for my dad, Dale Crafts, on Nov. 3.