Tuesday, October 19, 2004
A Last Duty
Voting was a patriotic responsibility that Las Vegan Alton Lee Overton did not take lightly.
Fifty years ago, he voted for the first time when he turned 21. While serving in the Air Force in Vietnam, he voted by absentee ballot. As a Las Vegas resident of 17 years, he walked across the street from his home near Nellis Boulevard and Desert Inn Road each Election Day to vote at a school.
Diagnosed with terminal lung cancer this past summer, Overton, a Republican, was determined to vote for President George W. Bush if it was the last thing he did.
It pretty much was.
Overton awoke Sunday and asked his wife for his mail-in ballot, filled it out, signed it, sealed it and asked a family member to immediately take it to a nearby mail box and drop it in. Six hours later, he died, three months to the day after he was diagnosed with cancer. He was 71.
I started bringing my daughters into the voting booth with me from their infancy until as teenagers, they refused. (Actually, I chased my youngest from the booth when she was 6 because she kept pulling the lever for Clinton-- I'd reset it for Dole, and she'd undo it again.) But it was with great pride that I watched my eldest cast her first vote this Spring (a school board election.) They hear, every election, that they owe it to themselves to vote, they owe it to our family, they owe it to their community-- but most of all, they owe it to the brave men and women who have sacrificed for them, from Bunker Hill to Baghdad.
They are almost as sick of hearing it as they are my "Many hands make light work" mantra at chores time. But they listen. I know they have.