What they don’t tell you about Romney
Romney’s silent acts of service are a recurring theme in the 2012 book “The Real Romney” by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, investigative reporters for The Boston Globe. Readers get a sense of Romney as a person of accomplishment, and also as a person in service to others.
One instance that highlights Romney’s style of silent charity is Joey’s Park, a playground named in memory of Joey O’Donnell, who died of cystic fibrosis and was the son of a Romney neighbor. Romney led the effort to build the park as well as its upkeep. “There he was with a hammer, a Mitt nobody sees,” Joseph O’Donnell, the father of the late boy, told the authors of “The Real Romney.” After the construction, Romney returned with a local Boy Scout troop to ensure that the memorial was maintained. “He did it for like the next five years, without ever calling to say, ‘We did this,’ without a reporter in tow, not looking for any credit.”
Romney the firefighter
As the president of his local Mormon stake, Romney had a reputation for helping fellow neighbors in their time of need. On Super Bowl Sunday 1989 the house of Douglas Anderson, a member of the same church as Romney, caught fire. While Anderson and his family made it out safely, all their possessions were left to the fate of the flames inside. A short time after the blaze began, Romney, who lived nearby, showed up and directed a salvage effort with several fellow church members. “They saved some important things and Mitt was the general in charge of it,” Anderson said. Romney and his crew ran in and out of the involved structure until the firemen arrived and stopped them. “Literally, they were finally kicked out when the firemen were bringing in their hoses,” Anderson explained.
Even before Romney had taken on a formal role in the church, he and Ann helped other members. Mark and Sheryl Nixon had six sons. Sons Reed and Rob suffered severe injuries in a 1995 car accident, which left Reed a quadriplegic and Rob a paraplegic. The Nixon’s world was turned upside down, and their sons’ treatment cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Christmas that year was going to be tough. Romney and his family had a plan to help their fellow parishioner. Before the holiday season, Romney called Mark to ask if he and his family could come over for Christmas Eve. When the holiday arrived, Romney, his wife Ann, and their children brought gifts for the family. The Romneys would go on to pay for their college education, run a 5k fundraiser on their behalf, and make contributions to charity golf tournaments for the Nixons.
The search for Melissa
Perhaps one of the more well known among Romney’s charitable acts was the effort to find the daughter of a Bain Capital partner. In July 1996, Bob Gay told Romney that his 14-year-old daughter Melissa was missing. Romney’s response was swift and decisive. “I don’t care how long it takes,” he told his partner. “We’re going to find her.”
Romney immediately closed the Boston office and sent 56 employees to New York City to help in search efforts, while 250 Wall Street employees from various firms were also enlisted to assist. They set up a tip line and handed out 200,000 brochures. Melissa was found in Connecticut, where she had traveled without her father’s knowledge. The search efforts were reported by the press, with the Boston Globe writing that Romney and his partners “decided that finding a missing daughter was more important than operating a $1 billion investment firm.” Romney would later comment that finding Gay’s daughter was “more valuable than some financial home runs that made the front page of (the) Wall Street Journal. I mean, money is just money.”
Tragedy strikes the missionary group
As a young missionary in France in the late 1960s, Romney had served in various assignments for two years when he became personal aide to Duane Anderson, mission president.
Romney was driving to Paris from Pau with Anderson, his wife Leola, David L. Wood and a Mormon couple from Bordeaux. They were passing through the small town of Beaulac when a speeding car missed a curve and hit them head-on. Anderson’s wife died from her injuries, Anderson himself was severely injured and Romney was in a coma for a number of days.
Anderson had to relinquish his mission duties to tend to his family’s affairs and to recuperate. The person who stepped in for Anderson, J. Fielding Nelson, would later remember that when he arrived “he found no disarray. The two young leaders, Romney and Joel McKinnon, still nursing their injuries, had stepped into the vacuum to manage the enterprise. That meant giving missionaries assignments, overseeing the financial operations and other administrative aspects of the mission and helping people in the field deal with whatever problems arose.”
Romney was busy making sure the community was intact and continued with their mission as a tribute to the sacrifices the Andersons had made for their church. A fellow missionary, Dane McBride, told authors Kranish and Helman: “You had this shock experience that affected us all emotionally, but the work had to go on. You saw this exceptional leadership in Mitt to inspire, uplift bring people to focus, remember what they’re about.”