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Frank Gray

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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Paul Larson, a former volunteer fireman and Goodrich worker, is on disability and relies on a motorized chair to get around in New Haven. Late last month, someone stole the chair while he was grocery shopping.

Wheelchair theft a low

Heist of power scooter at New Haven grocery a stunning, classless act

I think we can all agree that thieves are real lowlifes.

You work hard and save your money to buy something, and then a thief just takes it.

Most of us have been victims one time or another, but once in a while a thief will sink to a new low by ripping off something that even most thieves would pass on.

Take the tale of Paul Larson of New Haven.

Larson worked for B.F. Goodrich for 36 years, and he was a volunteer firefighter for 20 years.

But Larson eventually began to wear out. He got arthritis in his knees and the vertebrae in his neck began to crumble.

Today he’s 65 and on disability. He has screws and plates in his neck and uses a walker.

Larson doesn’t own a car. His daughter, who works and goes to school, gives him rides periodically, but Larson gets around primarily with a motorized wheelchair, or power chair, or scooter, whatever you want to call it.

He uses sidewalks to get to shopping areas and then parks the chair and uses his walker to get into and around and out of places like the grocery.

One place he parks his chair is at Delmar Plaza on Lincoln Highway. He parks it in front of an empty store that actually has an electric plug out front. He plugs the chair in, goes about his business and then returns.

It’s always worked out fine.

Late last month, though, when Larson returned to his chair, it was gone. Someone had stolen it.

Now that’s really classy: Stealing a man’s wheelchair.

Larson, who reported the theft to police, suspects that someone might have just taken the chair for a joyride and ditched it somewhere, and friends have been keeping their eye out for it.

It hasn’t turned up, though. There’s no telling where it might have ended up, for sale on Craigslist, at a pawn shop, in a recycling yard.

Larson bought the chair used about a year and a half ago. It was a blue Pride make, a model B308, he believes. It was a replacement for another used chair whose motor went out.

“It was a few years old, but it still got me around,” Larson said.

Larson is checking to see whether insurance will cover the loss, but if you know much about insurance there is a good chance the chair will be fully depreciated, so his insurance won’t pay anything.

So this 65-year-old ex-firefighter who is on disability and walks with a walker will have to come up with the money to buy another motorized chair because some thief decided it would be clever to steal his wheelchair.

As I said, it’s a new low, even for a thief.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter@FrankGrayJG.