For Harry Pedigo, Nov. 21 will be a day he’ll never forget.
It was the day Gov. Matt Bevin signed an executive order to pardon Pedigo from his felony convictions.
Just a day or so before that, however, Pedigo, received a personal phone call from Bevin, who would deliver the news.
“He said, ‘I wanted to let you know that as of tomorrow, I will be executing an order for an unconditional pardon on your behalf,' ” said Pedigo, who is the executive director of St. Benedict’s Homeless Shelter of Owensboro.
The call was unexpected for Pedigo, who had submitted his gubernatorial pardon application about a year ago without any guarantee that it would even be reviewed.
“… I knew after Bevin called me that was God’s redemption and Him saying, ‘Here you go,’ ” Pedigo said. “So it was very emotional for me and everybody I worked around; it was like hitting the lottery.”
Pedigo was first convicted in 2007 of felony complicity to burglary and receiving stolen property and then again in 2011 of criminal possession of a forged instrument (checks).
Within the order, Bevin wrote, “… After a turbulent start in life and a series of increasingly bad decisions, Harry Pedigo has turned his life around. His life story is an example to others of how to seize an opportunity for redemption. Harry’s service to his community, his genuine remorse for his past criminal activities and his willingness to use his life experiences to help others is impressive.”
Along with being a convicted felon, Pedigo, 37, a native of Bardstown, has experienced both homelessness and drug addiction.
Pedigo said he came from a dysfunctional home and began using drugs at a young age.
“I grew up poor so I always felt less than everybody else,” Pedigo said. “… I was just always trying to stay numb. And once I got myself in trouble, well then I had an even bigger reason to drown out those feelings of regret, remorse and guilt. It just got worse then.”
Pedigo said he didn’t have a drug of choice, but he became what's referred to as a poly-substance abuser.
“It was just anything I could get a hold of; that’s how bad my addiction had gotten,” Pedigo said.
But after he was charged in 2011, he knew something had to be done about his addiction.
“When I went to court for it, I just told the judge the truth,” Pedigo said. “I said, ‘Look, your Honor, you can lock me up, but I don’t know how to stop using; this isn’t me doing this; I just got to get high, and I don’t know what’s wrong with me.'”
Instead of being placed in jail, Pedigo was court-ordered to Owensboro Regional Recovery.
And while going through that treatment program, Pedigo said that’s when his life began to change for the better.
“From that moment on, I was done (with drugs),” Pedigo said. “I knew I couldn’t continue to live the way I was living, ‘cause I was hurting people and I was ruining my life. I knew I didn’t have a life, and I wanted a life.”
Pedigo would eventually become a peer mentor at ORR and then later began working at Lighthouse Recovery Services.
In 2013, he started working part time at various restaurants as well as St. Benedict’s.
In July 2015, Pedigo was promoted to director of St. Benedict’s — a men’s homeless shelter at 1001 West Seventh St.
Pedigo has since earned his bachelor’s degree in social work from Western Kentucky University and will graduate with his master’s degree in social work in May from the University of Louisville.
When he decided to enter college to become a social worker, he did it knowing he may not be employable because of his felony record.
“I knew I might not be able to hold a professional (social work) license and all my college education may have been for nothing," Pedigo said. "... But the moment I decided that I wasn't going to let my past actions, my mistakes hold me back, I changed my life around. I got sober; I started helping people; I started going back to school."
With his rights restored, Pedigo is also now looking forward to voting for the first time in his life.
And in the past eight years, Pedigo said he's experienced other joys such as getting married, starting a family and owning a home.
"If I were to say who is to get credit for this, I would definitely say God," Pedigo said. "But I would also say the city of Owensboro. This whole community has welcomed me; it has never judged me; it has elevated me; it has allowed me to be who God created me to be and it has supported me helping anybody that I can help. I haven't had to prove myself. They see my heart. If it wasn't for the community, I promise you this wouldn't have happened."
Don Wilkins, email@example.com, 270-691-7299