Regular folks with local ties to humanize Mitt Romney at convention

The stage at this week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa has been dominated by politicians extolling Mitt Romney’s policies but on the final night, before Romney accepts the party’s presidential nomination, the platform will showcase people who know the candidate on a personal level.

Some of the speakers are famous in their own right: Mike Eruzione, the “Miracle on Ice” hero who scored the game-winning goal against the Soviet Union’s powerhouse hockey team at the 1980 Olympics; Tom Stemberg, the founder of Staples.

Eruzione and a collection of former teammates lit the Olympic cauldron at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, which Romney organized. Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded, was an early investor in Staples.

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Other speakers are unknown to the public. Their mission is to humanize Romney, the former Massachusetts governor worth as much as a quarter-billion dollars, who is perceived by some voters as detached from regular people.

Adams residents Ted and Pat Oparowski, members of Romney’s Mormon church, are expected to share a story about how Romney helped their teenage son, David, write his own will during the last days of his battle with cancer.

“Mitt pulled out a yellow notebook, like lawyers use, and sat down with David and wrote down everything David wanted,” Pat Oparowski told the New York Times on Wednesday. “Maybe some people who are very rich or on top of the world look down on us peons, but he doesn’t.”

Pam Finlayson, whose family also attended the Mormon church in Belmont when Romney was a leader there, will talk about Romney’s dedication to her family during a difficult period many years ago. Finlayson told the Times that Romney prayed over her daughter, Kate, after she was born prematurely.

Kate Finlayson suffered from hydrocephalus—water on the brain—and died in 2010 at age 26.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1984, when Kate Finlayson was still hospitalized as an infant, Romney showed up, unannounced, at the family’s home with a dinner he had prepared himself.

“I think every day of their life, there was an aspect of their life where service to others was involved,” Pam Finlayson told the Times.

Eruzione told the Associated Press on Thursday that he, too, will focus on Mitt Romney, the man, recounting the leadership qualities he observed in Romney during the run-up to the 2002 Olympics, which were marred by a bribery scandal before Romney became chief executive of the Games’ organizing committee.

“I’m not going to get up there and talk about Medicare or job opportunities,” Eruzione told the AP. “I’m going to talk about my relationship with him and Salt Lake City and what I thought was an absolutely incredible job to pull those Games together. It could have been a disaster.”