Theresa Dugan mails ballot in Pittsfield

Theresa Dugan, of Pittsfield, prepares to hand over her 2020 ballot last week to a worker in the city’s main post office.

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PITTSFIELD — To gain the right to vote in the United States, Theresa Dugan had to be schooled. As a teenage immigrant from Canada, she set herself to learning the duties of citizenship.

That was a long time ago, but it explains why this 58-year resident of Pittsfield put on a red mohair jacket and made a special trip last week to the U.S. Post Office, masked, with her ballot in hand.

A granddaughter, Katherine Sadighi, of Richmond, captured it on camera.

“Theresa battled through pneumonia this winter, and one thing that kept her hopes high was the need to mail in her ballot for the 2020 presidential election,” Sadighi said.

Dugan, 93, says she recalls the day she became a U.S. citizen — and later cast her first presidential ballot for Harry Truman. All these years later, she remains a determined and regular voter. She thinks everyone should participate in American democracy by helping to pick elected leaders.

“I think they should,” she said in a recent telephone interview. “If they live not just in this country, but any country … it’s a responsibility.”

But, why the special trip to the post office, and the photo-op?

“I just wanted to show off a little bit,” she said with a laugh. “At my age, I thought, ‘This is the year.’ ”

Dugan came to the U.S. from Prince Edward Island in Canada at age 18, just as World War II was ending. She lived for a time in Boston, where she met her husband. His work as an engineer brought the new family to the Albany, N.Y., area, and to Pittsfield.

“We decided to live here permanently, because we liked it,” she said.

By the time the family was settled in Pittsfield and raising children, Dugan was a citizen, as committed to voting on local issues as national ones.

Lessons from the naturalization process seemed to stay with her.

“We had to learn more, because coming from Canada we didn’t know a whole lot about the United States,” she said of the naturalization curriculum. “But, we had to study before we went to the court to get our citizenship.”

“I just believe I should vote,” she said.

Dugan speaks with pride of having voted for Barack Obama for president. She laughs when asked which candidate for the White House won her backing last week.

“I better not,” she said. “It’s going to be a big hassle anyway, I think, by the time two or three weeks are up.”

But, she adds: “If you see a flag over my house, you’ll know what I did.”

It does seem to her that 2020 has ushered in a different kind of election season. “Oh, goodness,” she said. “I was very excited when Obama got elected. … There was no fuss or muss about it, but this year is an awful lot of hassle.”

She didn’t watch the televised debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, though she did catch highlights the next day.

“I didn’t, only because I go to bed kind of early at my age.”

Though Dugan has a favorite, she said she believes it is important to respect decisions other voters make.

“Everybody has their own choice. I’ll never tell anybody [how] to vote. Of course I’d like them to vote the way I do. … Who’s to say who’s right?”

Larry Parnass can be reached at and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass, investigations editor, joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant and CommonWealth Magazine.


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