Christian Seifried, a retired mail carrier in Newport, died last week at age 90. But his legacy lives so dramatically that we're compelled to repeat the story for anyone who doubts the power of one person to accomplish lasting change.
Mr. Seifried's obituary, published Friday in The Enquirer, told a simple, inspiring story of an ordinary man who helped take on an extraordinary challenge: Root out mob-controlled corruption and vice that once earned Newport the label of "Sin City."
Seifried delivered mail in Newport's west end in the 1940s and the 1950s and was "horrified" at the brothels and gambling halls he saw, and especially at the children he saw hanging around them. He told The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1961 that he "made a pledge to God and myself that I'd so something about it if the opportunity ever presented itself."
It did and he did.
Working with clergy, business and community leaders, Seifried helped form The Committee of 500. The group led a long-term crackdown on vice and political corruption in old Newport.
Making daily mail rounds, Seifried helped collect evidence that was combined with other information to oust several city and county officials accused of secretly working with organized crime operating gambling casinos and brothels in Newport.
Committee members kept the public light shining on what was going on, and that "really helped make the difference," said Mr. Seifried's son, Roger, of Loveland.
The obituary quotes a nationally-recognized activist Gary Bauer. He was a Newport teenager in those days and said the effort inspired him to pursue a life of political activism and social change. Bauer, 56, a member of President Reagan's administration, ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2000 and today heads a Washington-based advocacy group called American Values.
Bauer said the work of Seifried and others in the battle for Newport "was an early example of the difference citizen activism can make in a community by using the liberties we have in this great country. The whole effort inspired me."
Seifried was a working man who saw a wrong in his own back yard and fought to right it. He helped reshape a city and ultimately influence this region. Stories like his should be retold to remind us of the power of one, ordinary person, motivated by principle, patience and passion, to accomplish much.
EDITORIAL PAGE HEADLINES
Beale, but different
Legacy of involvement