Joseph L. Shimburski, whose anti-President Obama sign posted outside of his Aurora home created all kinds of hullaballoo last week, heard loudly from both sides by telephone, letters and by people visiting the house he’s called home for a half-century.
But it was a heartfelt call from an apparent former colleague of Shimburski’s late Thursday that prompted the steadfast opponent of the president to remove the sign that some viewed as racist.
The sign, which appeared following Obama’s re-election, initially stated in block letters that “Voters Reniged.” After The Buffalo News reported on the sign last Sunday, and at Shimburski’s wife’s urging, the sign was altered to “Voter Reneged.”
But Thursday, he took the sign down altogether. Why?
“There was a guy who called me and he said he worked with me – and, I don’t remember him, I don’t even remember the name – and he asked me nicely to take it down,” Shimburski told The News late Friday. “He didn’t think it was appropriate for kids passing by on school buses. He was nice about it.”
“It’s down. It’s going to stay down,” added Shimburski, 78. “I think everybody got the message anyway – everybody who goes by.”
At least one person who got it loud and clear – Paul Bradford, who lives just south of Shimburski on Center Road in Colden, publicly raised concern about the sign to The News last week. He is being hailed by some as a true patriot, but Bradford downplayed that notion.
“It’s exceedingly kind; I’m humbled,” Bradford said. “But, to be honest, for the first few days, I just sort of sat on my duff hoping someone else would take care of it.”
But every time Bradford had to pass by the sign, he felt he “was being smacked upside the head with hate” and that spurred him to action.
“If this sort of thing wasn’t nipped in the bud, driven back underground, my worry was that out here where people may think others aren’t watching, it would gather momentum,” Bradford explained.
Bradford added that he hoped Shimburski had “a change of heart” and, if so, looked forward to visiting him or even buying some of the maple syrup Shimburski is known to peddle in the neighborhood.
Speaking about any such love fest might be a tad premature.
Even though he took down the sign, Shimburski said it doesn’t mean his views about the president or his political ideology has changed. In fact, Shimburski said, he’s planning to contact Bradford to explain why he thinks Bradford is being misled by Obama.
“I am going to send him a letter I got here about that this government wants to take over 401ks and so on,” said Shimburski, adding he’s ambivalent toward any possible visit by Bradford. “If he stopped in, I’d be civil to him.”
And, Shimburski said he’s standing his ground on the other sign he’s got up. “Still No President” replaced the “Obama, Not My President” sign he had posted in his yard for four straight years without incident.
Signs or no signs, the past week has been far from a knockdown for Shimburski, who estimates he’s enjoyed about “5-to-1” support from those who have blitzed his normally serene homestead with calls, letters and personal visits to talk or leave notes.
In town, Shimburski said people who recognized him bought him coffee, an elderly World War II veteran approached him to shake his hand and a classmate of his from long ago personally laminated the Nov. 25 story in The Buffalo News titled, “A sign of free speech – or of racism?” and thanked him for it.
Shimburski said not all of the feedback was like that.
He said he received some correspondence from those who were upset by the sign and “two or three threatening letters” from “fruitcakes.”
At least one person who didn’t agree with the sign took a softer approach and stuck an “I Leave Peaceprints” sign in the ground with Shimburski’s name on it.