Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Legs Not Needed in His Life Accident Victim Has Coped for 45 Years

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Legs Not Needed in His Life Accident Victim Has Coped for 45 Years

Article excerpt

When Chester O'Steen hops on his tractor to mow the grass on his 14-acre property in Mandarin, he uses a piece of wood to control the brakes and the clutch.

That's because O'Steen, 74, has no legs.

He lost his just below the hip 45 years ago in a Jacksonville shipyard explosion.

But those who have watched O'Steen care for his property, build a home, repair televisions and raise his children would hardly call him impaired.

His grandchildren have even tried to stop him from parking between the blue lines nearest the supermarket.

"You can't park there," they tell him. "It's for handicapped people."

"He has never let it [his disability] stop him," said Frances O'Steen, his wife of 49 years. She recalled coming home one stormy night in the 1960s to find her husband on his tractor plowing a new driveway, protecting himself from the storm with an umbrella in one hand and the piece of wood in the other.

"It's my left leg. That's what I call it [the piece of wood]," O'Steen said with a chuckle.

Family and friends have long been astonished by O'Steen's independence, strong will and sense of humor.

"He'd jump in and out of the car and have televisions fixed in a minute," said Jack Pappy of Mandarin, who ran a television repair business with O'Steen.

O'Steen taught himself to repair televisions through a correspondence course.

Frances O'Steen recalled her husband laying floorboards and shimmying up on scaffolds while building their Mandarin home in 1962.

Some roofers helping with the job got little done because they spent most of their time watching him work on the housetop, he said.

They wanted to photograph him for their trade magazine, he said.

In the home off Losco Road, he was a stay-at-home husband while his wife worked at a bank.

He raised his two daughters and also cared for his property, large garden and swimming pool.

On Wednesday, O'Steen was out covering his orange tree roots with dirt to protect them from the freeze.

"I've shoveled more dirt from this wheelchair than most men have from their shoes," he said.

He's worn out more than 20 wheelchairs over the years because he's constantly on the go, he said. …

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