I was inspired by the work of Hugh Herr and by the legs made by Hern Worsley to write this piece. (Sorry, Stephen. Just close your eyes.)
During World War II, several technologies were developed—ENIAC, the atomic bomb, and unknown to all but a few Americans, prosthetic robotics. This technology, developed to help injured soldiers, aimed to utilize the robotics recently developed in an underground bunker positioned under the football field of Wichita State University. Mrs. Veronique Portsbee of Garden City, Kansas, become the test recipient of the robotic legs that were developed after her legs were lost to an unfortunate accident during her work for the French Resistance.
She and her family were sworn to silence, and she was unable to leave her home using the legs to preserve secrecy. However, she enjoyed a relatively happy and quiet existence in her beautiful new “Space Age” postwar home, given to her with many other generous benefits, by the Government of the United States.
Mrs. Veronique Portsbee passed away last Wednesday. Her obituary said, “Mrs. Veronique Portsbee, age 89, joined her husband, Harold, in eternal rest. She is survived by her children, Alan Portsbee and Barbara Knutson, grandchildren Rebecca, Steven, Renee, and Dawn, and great-grandchildren Connor and Tyler. She was active in the Garden City Women’s Club and donated time at the Lee Richardson Zoo. Memorials may be sent to the Zoo.”
Her legs, and the technology that created them, were buried quietly with her in Valley View Cemetery.
These rare photos, taken by her son with his new 35mm camera in her kitchen in Garden City, Kansas, were processed on authentic Kodachrome. Her dress, purchased by her husband to celebrate her 33rd birthday, is a boutique item from Neferia Abel. With its beautiful skirt and bolero over a lace bodice, cinched at the waist by a smart belt, it is the perfect dress for a woman in the mid-50s. She wears her favorite pearls from Sonatta Morales and of course, her prosthetic legs, custom engineered for her comfort by Hern Worsley.
Her hair was styled and colored perfectly by Kin Keiko in a curly, nicely shaped cut. (She does not wear the prosthetics when people come to her home. A blanket covers what’s left of her bodily legs.) Her makeup, courtesy of Monicuzza Babenco, is a splurge—she loves to look pretty, especially when she can show off her baby blues from Ikon Innovia. When all is said and done, it was a good life.
She made the best cream puffs, her grandson said at her funeral.
Hair: kin-Jennifer-[red] by Kin Keiko for kin
Skin: *YS & YS* Desiree 05 Happy with *YS & YS* Desiree Lips Sensual by Monicuzza Babenco for *YS & YS* *
Eyes: FASHISM ‘Sunrise’ Eyes – Pale Blue (ML) by Ikon Innovia for FASHISM *
Dress: ~Ivalde~Anja blue dress by Neferia Abel for ~Ivalde~ *
Jewelry: Three strand pearls necklace and Four Strand Pearls Bracelet by Sonatta Morales for Sonatta Morales
Prosthetics: AVZ ~ Mekahooves ~~ by Hern Worsley for AVZ
Taken at artilleri
Read and listen to this much more inspirational story about Hugh Herr, a double amputee and director of the Biomechatronics Group at MIT about the development of real prosthetic devices.