Leg amputated, at 93 she takes on crossing

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WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) - In a dozen black felt shadowboxes hung on the pale-blue walls of her West Chester dining room, Agnes Chesko displays hundreds of intricate spoons. One with a slim, spiral stem and a postage-stamp top. One with an Indian chief, his feathers trailing down the handle. One with the vivid image of a grand cathedral laid in the oval indent.

They were collected during almost a century of world travels that ended in December 2012 in the most unlikely way.

Chesko - who for decades had been active in Chester County politics, was an advocate for the disabled, and at age 92 continued to work and travel - was leaving her part-time courthouse job when she was struck by a car as she crossed Market Street. Months of hospitalization and a stream of infections followed.

Last fall, doctors amputated her right leg.

Now Chesko - whose independence always belied her age, as she took up a new career when her peers were well into retirement, received a speeding ticket or two in her Pontiac Firebird convertible during her 80s, and was pushed up a mountain in Uganda at age 90 to see a silverback gorilla at the top - must ask for help.

“For an independent person, needing so much help is not very pleasant,” she said Thursday, glancing down at a yellow ledger on her lap that her daughter had handed to her a moment before.

Everything, Chesko said, seems to be just an inch beyond her grasp.

Still, complaining is not in her character, and rather than focusing on all she can no longer do, Chesko has one clear goal: seeing changes made to the crosswalk where she was hit.

In a lawsuit filed last month, Chesko claims the state Department of Transportation, the Borough of West Chester, and the state knew the mid-block crosswalk on a one-way street was a hazard and negligently designed inadequate signs and signals. A borough official declined comment on the claim, and the state has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.

Also named as defendants are Karen Johnson, the Downingtown woman who was driving the car, and her husband, Barry. Neither could be reached for comment.

Chesko is seeking compensation for, among other things, more $500,000 in medical expenses, according to the suit.

Some of the changes she says she would like to see at the crosswalk are already in the works.

County spokeswoman Rebecca Brain said the commissioners conducted a traffic study after Chesko’s accident that showed 89 percent of drivers complied with the signals and yielded to pedestrians.

The commissioners have approved additional warnings, including more LED lights, a sign prompting pedestrians to wait for vehicles to stop, and alerts at the intersection before the crosswalk.

Brain said those changes are expected to be complete in June. Chesko said she was “determined not to let go” until the improvements are made.

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