Grandmother did what she had to do

Published 10:37 pm Saturday, October 24, 2009

The word “hero” has always been an intriguing one because it can encompass so many people, even those who you may not think would fit the bill.

Websters says a hero is: “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability; an illustrious warrior; a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one that shows great courage.”

Well, a 70-year-old great-grandmother from Ironton earned that designation in my book by protecting her family last week in Columbus.

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The story of the Lawrence County family has grabbed headlines, serving as a perfect example of why anti-gun advocates are out of touch with the reality of the world in which we live.

The group was in Columbus for a horse show and were staying at a motel near the highway. Since it was early evening, they were just sitting around talking and had their ground-floor motel room door open.

Armed gunman Wayne Winston, 25, burst in and demanded money, ordering everyone onto the floor.

But this put “Granny” closer to her purse and the .357 Magnum that it contained, a firearm that was her late husband’s and for which she had a license.

As the robber got increasingly agitated, this woman reacted and did a brave thing, but one that many might have hesitated to do.

She pulled the trigger.

Whether it was fate, karma, coincidence or an aimed shot, Winston died from these wounds just a few minutes later.

The grandmother and family members have declined to talk to The Tribune at this time, likely still coming to terms with what happened.

I cannot imagine the mixed emotions “Granny” is feeling knowing that she was forced to take someone’s life, even if they are scumbag robbers.

But this woman shouldn’t beat herself up over this. She absolutely did the right thing and may have saved the lives of her family.

The Columbus Police say they won’t likely press charges but that the case will be presented to a grand jury just as a matter of procedure.

It would be a travesty of justice if this woman is even considered when it comes to this.

If more law abiding citizens like this woman carried guns or kept them in their homes, our crime rate would almost certainly drop.

Criminals want easy targets and if they know those once viewed as good choices — like senior citizens and women — might be carrying a gun, it will certainly act as a deterrent.

Though her name isn’t being released by police or printed here — the family fears retaliation — many people know who she is.

We hope all friends and family rally in support of this brave woman.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, all ethnic backgrounds and all genders.

Our soldiers are heroes. Our firefighters and police officers are too. Many ordinary people are heroes as well.

That includes great-grandmothers who put protecting family as the most important priority.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at