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November 14, 2012

Senior’s work at polls spans 73 years

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

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Frances Legree, 93, has worked at the polls during elections in the Warren area since 1939.

WARREN — When Frances Legree started working at the polls in the Warren area in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the middle of his second term as the president of the United States.

On Nov. 6, 2012, Legree was at her post as an election inspector at Precinct 24 in the Warren Woods Education Center on Frazho, greeting voters and getting them ready to cast ballots in the recent presidential election.

“I did miss a few. I was gone for a few years when my husband was in the service,” said Legree, 93, who moved to the Warren area from Detroit when she was 8, after being born in Illinois.

And by “in the service,” she means in the Army, fighting in Europe during World War II.

“Fran,” as her fellow poll workers call her, fondly remembers her husband, John, who passed away in 2000. She also remembers her son who died in 2002, and her daughter who passed away this year.

But none of it stopped Legree from working on the city’s elections, a stint of service now spanning more than seven decades.

“All I know is that when I first started working on this, everyone voted at the Lincoln school,” Legree said. “At one time my dad, my sister, and I all worked. That’s going back a long time.”

It’s not just the candidates who changed throughout the years; in so many ways, the way voters cast ballots has evolved.

Although she said she misses the cumbersome, curtained, grey-steel voting machines of yesteryear, Legree has stayed on. She witnessed elections progress that transformed precincts with cardboard privacy barriers, ballot sleeves and optical scan machines.

“She’s seen a lot of changes,” said Larry Flynn, an election inspector who has worked alongside Legree for four years.

“She’s always here. She’s prompt. She’s a hard worker,” fellow election inspector Donna Charlton said. 

Legree’s ties to the city of Warren stretch beyond her 85 years in the area and her 73 years of work at the polls. Her brother-in-law, Bill Shaw, was elected Warren’s third mayor and led the city from April 1961 to April 1967.

According to the rules governing the city’s elections at the time, Legree said Shaw’s service as mayor kept her from working at the polls when her brother-in-law was on the ballot.

“I just enjoy doing it,” Legree said of her work on election days past and present. “I suppose meeting people — I’ve always enjoyed it.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.