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Ann Romney doesn’t let multiple sclerosis interfere with campaign work

Ann Romney Mitt Romney

Ann Romney, Mitt Romney

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Updated: April 21, 2012 8:14AM

Ann Romney was playing the role of closer for her husband, Mitt, in Vernon Hills on Sunday night.

“We need to send a message that it’s time to coalesce, it’s time to come together, it’s time for us to get behind one candidate and get the job done,” she urged the crowd in the northwest suburb, not mentioning chief rival Rick Santorum by name.

Mrs. Romney is a constant presence on the presidential campaign trail — at times having to pace herself since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998.

“She is humorous, very engaging, and she is involved in what is going on in the campaign,” said state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who is chairing Romney’s Illinois operation.

Romney credits his wife with being the closer when he was deciding whether to make a second try for the White House.

“‘I am really sorry sweetie, but you have to do this again,’” Romney said his wife told him, recounting for the Vernon Hills audience an oft-told story about his wife’s role.

Romney told the crowd how he first met the women who became his wife when he was in fourth grade — and she was in second. As a boy, he really did not notice her.

But a teen-aged Mitt was smitten when he spotted Ann Davies when she was a sophomore at a Bloomfield Hills, Mich., high school.

“I noticed. We were at a party together, she came with someone else, I went to him and I said, ‘I live closer to Ann than you do. Can I give her a ride home for you?’ And he said yes and we have been going steady ever since.”

The high school sweethearts wed in 1969 and Mrs. Romney has focused most of the time on raising her big family — five sons and 16 grandchildren.

Mrs. Romney converted to the Mormon faith and attended the church’s Brigham Young University, marrying Romney while still an undergraduate.

In a campaign video, Mrs. Romney talked about how she leaned on her husband when she was diagnosed with MS in 1998.

“I was frightened. Mitt was frightened. But I needed him desperately. He was so reassuring and so loving,” she said. Mrs. Romney is also a breast cancer survivor.

When Romney was Massachusetts governor, she carved out a role for herself as first lady of the state, serving as a liaison to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. She has been a Board Member of the New England Chapter of the MS Society and active in a group called Right to Play, which uses sports to help children in disadvantaged parts of the globe.

Mrs. Romney is an equestrian — winning prizes in dressage competition. Riding helps her cope with her MS.

Said Rutherford, “she is a very classy lady.”

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