When Clayton Gradert awoke in his Rock Springs home on Tuesday, he had a goal: to vote in the General Election. As a Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Gradert felt it was his patriotic duty to cast his ballot in every election.
Accompanied by his wife, Connie Gradert, the longtime Rock Springs resident ventured out to get an allergy shot and to let his voice be heard.
While waiting in line at his polling place at Western Wyoming Community College, Gradert began to feel weak. When he received his ballot and began to select his candidates, he could tell something was wrong. The ballot went in and out of focus, and the circles began to move. Determined to cast his vote, Gradert moved closer to the table. As he flipped his ballot to finalize his selections, he collapsed.
Within seconds of Gradert’s fall, responders were already assessing the situation. Cody Wadsworth, a current EMT Basic student, was in the building to cast a vote of his own. Wadsworth witnessed the fall and jumped to action. As Gradert seized, Wadsworth pulled him away from the wall to avoid further injury.
Another local voter, Natausha Smith, heard Gradert fall and jumped into action as well. Smith is a nursing student at WWCC who obtained CPR certification in October—something she encourages everyone to do.
Unable to find a pulse, Smith and Wadsworth began CPR. The two strangers worked together, taking turns performing chest compressions.
EMTs Gwen Carillo and Christi Krause were waiting for Wadsworth in the Sweetwater Medics ambulance, and quickly responded after a bystander told them what happened.
Before details were provided to 911, the EMTs were already at Gradert’s side.
Gradert became responsive on scene and was quickly rushed to Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County at about 10:30 a.m.
Gradert’s daughter, Stephenie Gradert, says her father continued to ask if his vote was counted—determined to fulfill the day’s goal. His vote was, in fact, included in the final tally. County Clerk Dale Davis said the election judges were instructed to include Gradert’s vote when polls closed, providing time for him to return and complete his ballot if possible.
Gradert and his family never knew casting his vote would be one of his final acts. He passed away shortly before 11:30 p.m.
The family is still unsure as to what caused the medical emergency. While there is a family history of sudden heart attacks, they await an autopsy for answers.
A celebration of his life will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, November 14th at the Santa Fe Trail in Rock Springs.
The family asks that donations be made to Shriners Hospitals for Children in lieu of flowers.