Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


April 27, 2014

Flatwoods woman thrives despite polio

FLATWOODS — Eleanor Ison is mayor Oakmont Manor, but she never ran for office.

“I gave the title to myself,” she said.

The avid University of Kentucky fan, 84, has lived in the assisted living community for more than two years and makes it a point to visit her neighbors and spread good cheer on a daily basis.

“Eleanor is so happy all the time,” her friend, June McKnight, said during a visit to see her husband at the facility. “She’s so special.”

Ison was born in Texas; her mother came to Pike County to teach at a Presbyterian school and met her father. They moved to Texas but eventually moved back to Kentucky.

She was raised in Phelps and suffered from polio.

“My mother looked out for me but she never coddled me,” she said.

She also said she had a great brother, Herb, who also lives at Oakmont Manor.

“He rode me around in wagons,” she recalled.

Eventually, she got even more help.

“A field nurse found me and told me to come to Ashland for treatment and I got braces on my legs,” she continued, adding she was able to walk with braces. “When I was 10, I had surgery. Dr. M.D. Jarred did the surgery. He was kind of like a father to me.”

After surgery, Ison and her mother were in California in a department store and she was using crutches.

“A lady come over and said, ‘You need to use a cane; it will make your legs stronger,’” she said. “My mother got me one and the next day I walked a block with it and the next day I was so sore.” However, she continued working with the cane and improved. “I had a good mom who taught me to never give up and to never feel sorry for myself.”

Although considered handicapped by many, Ison said she never thought she was.

She earned an associate degree in business from Pikeville College, getting around the campus with 98 steps on the hillside with her cane.

 In 1953, she was looking for work when, in 1953, she and her mother were in Ashland and saw Dr. Jarred, who offered Ison a job working in his office, where she was employed for seven years. It was in Ashland that she met her future husband, C.B. Ison.

“I met him in Gino’s, the first pizza place in Ashland,” she said. “I thought he had the prettiest eyes in the country.”

They married and had three children: Bob, Rusty and Michelle.

“They’re all miracle. I never thought I could have babies. They’re all from God,” she said.

At 42, she learned to drive. Her son Rusty said they found an advertisement for hand controls in a magazine, ordered them and had them installed.

“She got us back and forth to our (football) practices,” he said. “Mom’s always been my rock.”

Her daughter agreed.

“We didn’t look at her as different,” she said. “She walked different, but to us, she wasn’t different.”

Ison also is a member of Flatwoods Nazarene Church, where she was treasurer for 25 years.

After her husband died, Ison moved into a handicap accessible apartment where she lived for 17 years. Daughter Michelle and her husband found a larger home so Ison could move in with them and she lived there for two years before going into Oakmont Manor.

“Michelle didn’t want me to,” she said. “She cried.”

Ison said she appreciated her daughter’s devotion – “I wouldn’t trade her for a good milk cow” – but didn’t mind the move and has been very content.

“I get all kinds of special help here,” she said. “Michelle’s house is my first home, but I consider this my second home.”

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.

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