Canton Repository

January 21, 2005

A politically divided family celebrates red, white & blue

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- Like the nation, the Lowdermilks are divided between Republicans and Democrats. But last October, when the outcome of the presidential race was very much up in the air, the Stark County family resolved to come to the inauguration no matter who won.

Kevin and Pamela Lowdermilk of Canton, and one of their daughters, Tara, fulfilled that commitment this week. Packed into a van with extended family and friends — eight in all — they braved snowy roads and arrived in Washington on Wednesday.

Despite their partisan differences, they were all thrilled by the experience of seeing President Bush sworn in for a second term, they said after the inauguration ceremony on the south side of the Capitol.

“It was amazing, actually,” said Tara, 25, of Massillon, who proposed the trip in a letter to the family in the fall. “There’s no way to explain it in words.”

A Democrat who majored in history at Kent State University, she admitted that her heart “broke a little bit” when she saw defeated Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, at the ceremony.

But to her, the inauguration is not a political occasion, she said during a reception hosted by Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, in his Capitol Hill office.

“The election’s over and done, and we elected President Bush and that’s who our commander in chief is. And as Americans we need to stick together,” she said. “I think it’s good as a Democrat to be here and to kind of stand up about it and say I’m proud to be here and I’m going to support whoever our president is.”

Tara’s parents are Republicans, as is her sister Kara, who did not come to the inauguration.

Kara’s fiancé, a second lieutenant in the Army, ships out for Iraq today, family members said.

“She went down last weekend (to Fort Stewart, Ga.) to see him, and it’s pretty hard on her right now,” Kara’s father, Kevin, said.

Another sister, Tanya, is a Democrat. Tanya and a cousin and a friend were on the way to the inauguration in a separate vehicle when bad weather forced them to turn back.

This was the second inauguration for Tara’s grandmother Nancy Gardner and her great-aunt Joanne Julian, both of Jackson Township. The two Republicans came to the Bush inauguration four years ago.

Tanya’s fiancé, Richard Barker of England, also joined the trip.

“I am a supporter of this country; I am a supporter of Mr. Bush,” he said.

Barker also expressed his enthusiasm for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who faces a tough re-election bid because of his support for the war in Iraq.

Jeff Julian of Jackson Township, a Lowdermilk cousin, is a Republican.

“I just didn’t imagine how beautiful the Capitol looked with all the dressings on it and all the people,” he said.

Family friend Courtney Joly of Cumberland, R.I., a Democrat, also came to the inauguration.

She noticed a few protesters in the audience who turned their backs during the president’s speech.

“I would have liked to protest myself, but at the same time I wanted to be there as an American. I wanted to celebrate a beautiful experience,” she said.

The father, Kevin, a former staff sergeant in the Marine Corps, said it was an emotional experience for him to “actually have the honor to see the president sworn in.”

While his family is divided politically, Kevin said he respects his children’s intellectual independence.

“I’ve always told my children, ‘Stand on your own two feet,’” he said. “And Tara’s very political, and so am I. And we had some great discussions during the campaign. But one thing, as I said, and Tara feels (this too), when the smoke clears it doesn’t matter what candidate wins. It’s still the commander in chief and the president of this country.”