Evansville steps up to help couple

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009
— Just a day or two after an accident left Mary Flaherty paralyzed below her chest, she told her husband, “You’re going to see the blessings of living in a small town.”

She was right.

“It’s been almost overwhelming the amount of support you receive,” said her husband, Bob Flaherty, who is principal of J.C. McKenna Middle School.

Members of the school district, students and residents have come together to help the family. Local contractors and students in the buildings trades class built a shed for garage items so part of the garage can be remodeled into a handicap-accessible bathroom for Mary.

Bob can’t say enough about his school staff and others who have allowed him a flexible schedule to be with his wife and to make preparations for her return home.

Mary, 51, is in rehab at University Hospital in Madison, likely for several more weeks, Bob said.

The accident happened at 4:42 p.m. Oct. 27 on Highway 14 north of Holt Road, near the Rock-Dane county line. A car driven by Beauford Udell, 84, Beloit, failed to negotiate a slight curve and struck Mary’s oncoming SUV, according to the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.

Her SUV rolled at least twice, and she had to be extricated from the vehicle and flown to University Hospital.

Mary, a polysomnographic technologist at St. Mary’s Hospital, was on her way to help an instructor teach at Madison Area Technical College.

Udell was cited for operating left of center.

Sheriff’s investigators sent a driver condition or behavior report to the state documenting the crash and Udell’s inability to say why he entered the opposing lane by nearly 8 feet, Capt. Jude Maurer said.

State Department of Motor Vehicle officials will first get verification from Udell’s doctor on whether he is medically approved to drive, then see if he can pass knowledge and skills tests, said Debbie Kraemer, a supervisor at the DMV.

Mary is making progress, Bob said. She’s able to move her arms, which doctors didn’t think she’d be able to do. But she has no use of her hands.

Despite her prognosis, Mary is upbeat and working hard in therapy, Bob said.

“She’s been incredibly strong,” he said. “She told me the first day this happened, we’re going to move on and be able to do things.”

The Flahertys and their three children have been making the best of the situation because that’s all they can do, Bob said. And local builders continue to help get the family’s home in shape for Mary’s return, he said.

“The community has been great,” he said.


Mary Flaherty wanted to thank the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, Brooklyn EMTs, the Flight for Life crew and all the first responders, including someone who they think was an orthopedic doctor or surgeon at the scene, said her husband, Bob. The family also thanks all the school district staff, students, neighbors and community members who have assisted them since the accident.

A fund has been set up for the family at Union Bank & Trust, 2 E. Main St., Evansville, for expenses not covered by insurance. Donations can be mailed to P.O. 15, Evansville, WI 53546.

Last updated: 11:52 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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