Can't keep a good Ben down

November 16, 2009 8:01:29 AM PST
Philadelphia's best known founding father was Ben Franklin, and for years, one of Philadelphia's most familiar faces belongs to the man who's portrayed him, Ralph Archbold. Ralph suffered a severe stroke back in June and is now on the road to recovery.

Ralph attends therapy sessions three times a week at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital.

He has received extensive speech therapy and has made great progress in physical therapy.

"Even in the last week, he's really progressed to the point where we can kind of let him walk around by himself without any real danger to him. His endurance is getting better, his balance is getting better," Bryan Mawr physical therapist Ted Barron said.

It was July 3, 2008, on the eve of the nation's birthday, that Ralph and Linda, best known as Philadelphia's Betsy Ross, tied the knot in a lavish ceremony in front of Independence Hall.

His stroke caused him to miss Philadelphia's 2009 4th of July festivities; it was the first time he missed one in 22 years. It forced Ralph to spend his first wedding anniversary, suddenly disabled, unable to speak.

"In the very beginning, he could not communicate very well and that was horrible, but then once he could start to talk, then he hasn't stopped talking and that's a good thing," Linda Archbold said.

Today, he still struggles to complete the simplest tasks.

"I wasn't used to be so dependent in so many ways?it's extremely frustrating when you want to do something and the muscles won't do what your brain is telling it to do," Ralph said.

Linda recalls how Ralph had to relearn how to eat.

"He concentrated mostly on swallowing in the beginning and he was on pureed food and limited diet and he picked that right up and started eating steak," Linda said.

Ralph lost a total of 40 pounds.

Ralph says he "absolutely" misses his role as Ben Franklin.

"I love interacting with the people," Ralph said.

They haven't set a date for his return yet, but hope it will be in time for July 4, 2010.

Ben and Betsy, two of the nation's oldest historic figures, are not immortal after all, they suffer illness, and life's setbacks like the rest of us and display the passion and fortitude to overcome them.


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