Posted: Aug. 24, 2006


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

In the intensity of a political season, all hands are needed for the grist of a campaign, for stuffing envelopes, for making telephone calls, for walking the neighborhoods during literature drops, for putting up signs and for whatever else it takes to grind out the vote.

In this season, though, the Delaware Republicans and others are dedicating time for something even more vital.

Saving the Crossans.

David A. Crossan, the Republicans' executive director, and his wife Elizabeth were expecting this election year to be unusually hectic but fulfilling. Their family was growing. Already the parents of David Jr., who turned two on Tuesday, they had a second son, Samuel Joseph "Sammy" Crossan, born on June 1.

The Crossans, both 26, also were busy restoring a house built by David's great-grandfather in Roselle, near Prices Corner. Their boys were the fifth generation of Crossans in the house. It was another way of cementing their Delaware roots -- a couple of William Penn High School grads, with David growing up in Bear and Elizabeth in Old New Castle.

The week after Sammy was born, Elizabeth began to get headaches. By July 2, they were so severe that she went to the Beebe Medical Center in Lewes. She was diagnosed with brain tumors and helicoptered immediately to Christiana Hospital for surgery.

The operation was performed on the Fourth of July. The tumors were malignant and could not be completely removed. With a toddler and an infant and an old house and an election season, the Crossans were swept into a scary swirl of desperation, hope, setbacks, faith and medical treatments with grueling side effects.

Politics can be messy and cruel, but it excels at mobilizing a lot of people for a cause and raising money, and the Republican apparatus swung into work, although the effort quickly reached beyond the party.

On Wednesday evening, for example, about 15 people, organized by Cheryl L. Corn, a 2004 New Castle County Council candidate, met at Super Suppers, a family meal-prep establishment near Delaware Park, to plunk down $25 each and create about 30 dinners for the Crossans. During the planning, they thought they would have to buy a freezer to store the food, but a local chiropractor donated one.

"When you don't know what to do, and somebody gives you something to do, you do it," said Jeanne Best, a Republican Party member who participated.

There also has been a fund set up to help the Crossans pay for day-to-day expenses and medical costs not covered by insurance. So far about $17,000 has been collected, and additional contributions to "The Crossan Family Fund" can be sent to: Katherine M. Klocko, P.O. Box 432, Montchanin, Del. 19710. Donations are not tax deductible.

The outpouring of support has spread across party lines. Priscilla B. Rakestraw, the Republican national committeewoman, got a telephone call with an offer to help from Matthew P. Denn, the Democratic insurance commissioner.

"That's kind of funny -- the Democratic insurance commissioner calling the Republican national committeewoman," Rakestraw said.

"This began as a request to the Republican 'family' to help one of their own, but it has grown to encompass the state and expanded across the country to people we never heard of. It has crossed geographical lines, party lines, religious denomination lines. We got a check from Clinton, Miss., and we have no idea how."

It has been an emotional tidal wave for the Crossans. "I can't begin to describe how grateful Elizabeth and I are for the kindness that people have shown us," Dave Crossan said.

"The Lord has really worked through so many people to lift Elizabeth up and carry her through this. We're both believers, so we're trusting the Lord, and He's giving us the peace and strength we need to get through this. Sometimes if you ask for strength, the Lord sends trials to get you there."

Last week Elizabeth felt well enough to go with Dave and the boys to a rally in Newark for Ferris W. Wharton, the Republican candidate for attorney general, but this week she is in the intensive care unit at Christiana because of a fluid buildup that must be drained from her brain and the pressure relieved.

Dave Crossan calls the ordeal "an advanced degree in time management." He is in politics, and like the show, it must go on. On Wednesday at 10 p.m., he was driving to Republican state headquarters on Lancaster Avenue in Wilmington for his "day job" that had morphed into night.

Nor was he idle during the day, making use of the time he was not allowed to be with Elizabeth in intensive care.

"I'm making fund-raising calls," Dave Crossan said. "I'm raising good money from the waiting room of the ICU."