Marie's Candies Owner Shares Father's Polio Plight
June 2014

"'Live one day, sometimes one hour, sometimes one minute'" Jay King's mother, Marie, once told him when asked how she coped with caring for someone afflicted with polio.That someone was Mr. King's father, Winfred, who contracted the debilitating disease in 1941. Mr. King addressed Bellefontaine Rotarians at their Monday meeting.

Mr. King read excerpts from Faith, the Only Star: A Family's Journey Through Challenge to Victory, a 2003 book about the King family penned by Erin L. Hill and previously detailed in the Examiner.

Mr. King discussed the tense days following the patriarch's diagnosis.

The elder King's symptoms were initially thought to be a result of farming-related exhaustion, however, doctors determined he had contracted polio. The family was told there was a "one in 1,000 chance" the farmer would pull through.

Winfred had to be rushed to Community Hospital in Springfield to be treated via an iron lung - a new technology at the time, the current Marie's Candies owner said.

The hospital was the only one in the area that had an iron lung and a doctor, Morris Martin, who knew how to operate it, Mr. King said. The nurses weren't properly trained to use the device and often quit because of being required to use it, he noted.

Months of treatment in Ohio and West Virginia would follow before Winfred could return home. He would, however, remain wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.

Marie, herself, had to be quarantined for a few weeks during the ordeal.

To prevent Winfred from getting bed sores once home, Marie would wake up twice nightly to turn her husband, her son said.

"People were good to us," Mr. King said, adding, they "did a lot for us that we couldn't have done without." One family friend, for example, built a hydraulic lift assist to help get Winfred into his wheelchair.

To thank her neighbors, Marie made and gave away candy.

One neighbor, Charles Nelson, suggested Marie turn her candy-making hobby into a business.

Mr. Nelson had worked for Kerr's candy store in Urbana, where he acquired the firm's recipe for peppermint chews. He sold it and some equipment to the Kings, in addition to lending them $100 to start what would become Marie's Candies in 1956.

Although Mr. King said the adversity his family faced because of polio led it toward a successful business venture, it remains a threat.

"The more developed a country becomes, the more risk of polio," he said.

Still, tremendous progress has been made since Mr. King's father contracted the disease.

Rotary and its partners have helped reduce polio cases by 99 percent worldwide since the organization's first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979, according to