Timken Co. retiree beaten in car gets boost from Ohio labor unions
CANTON TWP. – A retired Timken Co. worker assaulted in a violent road rage confrontation has received a special gift from current and retired union leaders across Ohio.
Ralph White, 85, retired from Timken Co. after more than 30 years and was an active member of the steelworkers union at Golden Lodge USW Local No.1123.
On Feb. 27, White was involved in a two-car collision with Travonce Backie, 32, in the 2600 block of Eighth Street. Backie fled but not before assaulting White to the point of hospitalization, according to Canton police.
White received stitches, multiple lacerations to his face and bleeding on the brain. “If it had to happen, I’m glad it happened to me and not someone else,” White said.
After four months in hospice, White is now home, under the watchful eyes of his children, grandchildren and wife of 66 years, Mabel, 83.
Current and retired union workers come together
Local active and retired union leaders heard about White’s assault, and unbeknownst to White, took up a collection to help with the financial toll.
“I don’t even know him at all,” says Dan Fonte, a retired union leader and community advocate. “I found out about it when I read it in the newspaper and I was just shocked…I thought how could anyone do that? I am a retiree, and I got so mad… and knew we had do something to help this guy, our union brother,” Fonte said.
Fonte contacted White’s attorney, Edmond Mack, and Joe Sterling, President of the Hall of Fame Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Fonte and Sterling reached out to labor unions across Northeast Ohio, starting a collection to help.
“He’s a fellow union brother, and we take care of our own,” Sterling told White and his family outside White’s home.
Sterling and Fonte were joined by Canton Mayor Tom Bernabei as they handed White an envelope with a letter explaining their efforts. Included with the letter was a check from donations collected as far away as Lakewood in Cuyahoga County, all from retired and current union members, Sterling said.
White was overwhelmed by the gesture, fighting back tears as he told the men that the donations would help fund the renovations being done to his to home due to his medical conditions stemming from the attack.
“My grandson and children are installing a shower and restroom on the first floor along with a washer and dryer that were in the basement,” White said. The donations will help finish the projects.
Bernabei said he’s stayed in touch with White since he first was told about the Canton incident. “These are salt-of-the-earth people… and they deserve our help,” Bernabei said.
Bernabei thanked the labor unions for taking it upon themselves to find a way to help White and his family. “It’s a wonderful thing, a sign that we have a caring community,” Bernabei said.
Adjusting to life after severe trauma
“I hate to say it, he isn’t doing so well” Mabel White said about her husband. “His head constantly hurts and he sleeps, sleeps, sleeps.”
The ordeal has taken an emotional toll on the couple, who fear someone will seek them out in retaliation.
“It’s been a tough three months. One night, I woke up at 5 a.m. and I got so scared I thought someone was going to break-in .. thinking let’s get those old people,” Mabel recalled.
White says he won’t be attending any court hearings, and will leave everything up to Mack, a partner at Canton’s Plakas Mannos firm.
Finding forgiveness and man’s best friend
White doesn’t regret what happened to him. “I didn’t even get a punch in… but better to have happened to me than someone else,” he cried recalling that night.
White’s family isn’t so forgiving, hoping the justice system will prevail.
While talking about the potential of the accused offender pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, Mabel said, “he posted what he did on Facebook…bragging about beating up an old man.”
White was not alone in his vehicle. He was accompanied by his 8-year-old Pomeranian, Shania — named after music star Shania Twain.
“The airbag went off and she shot into the backseat of the car and somehow ended up outside. I don’t know where she went, but if she would have seen him (Backie) hit me, she would have went after him,” White said.
Shania is White’s sidekick and best friend. “She came to hospice every day to see me,” White said.
“After the crash, she was missing. Police found her the next day, four blocks away from the crash near a church…I was so happy.”
Backie faces multiple felony charges, including felonious assault with a repeat violent offender specification, and is set to plead not guilty by reason of insanity on July 8 in Stark County Common Pleas Court.
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