Categotry Archives: Extraordinary People

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Leeland Thomas Engelhorn

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Categories: Extraordinary People, Military

During World War II, Leeland Thomas Engelhorn was shot out of the sky, starved and held as a prisoner of war.
Engelhorn, a 170-pound North Dakota native, worked as a gunner and a radio operator on a B-24 bomber. After conducting a strike against a German aircraft-production plant in 1944, Engelhorn’s plane was shot down. He bailed out, survived the fall and started walking toward Switzerland. While stealing some fruit from an orchard, Engelhorn was spotted. The orchard owner and his wife gave him a cigar then turned him in to German authorities.
The Nazis took Engelhorn to a POW camp in Poland where the doctors cleaned his shrapnel wounds without the benefit of anesthetics. When Russian troops advanced toward the camp, the Germans moved all 6,000 allied prisoners. Known as the “Black March,” the POWs were forced to walk hundreds of miles through one of the worst European winters in history. Almost 1,500 died from cold and hunger.
When he was liberated by American troops, Engelhorn weighed only 95 pounds. For his stamina and bravery, he received the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.
After the war ended, Engelhorn returned to America and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in geography from the University of North Dakota. He became a founding faculty member at Grossmont Community College, and was named a National Educator of the Year in 1972.
Engelhorn died on July 28 from complications of prostate cancer. He was 80.

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Killian Owen

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Categories: Extraordinary People

kowen.jpgAlthough he was only a child, Killian Owen helped raise thousands of dollars for leukemia research.
When he was five years old, Owen was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. To fight the disease, he endured years of chemotherapy, which caused fevers, nausea and made his hair fall out.
Still Owen maintained his sense of humor and purpose. He became a “hero” for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, and inspired hundreds of people to run in a marathon and raise money for leukemia research. Two years ago, he and his three brothers designed Christmas cards to benefit the cancer center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
NASCAR driver Robby Gordon visited Owen at home and in the hospital. Earlier this month, Owen met his favorite baseball player, Sammy Sosa. During a Cubs-Braves game, Sosa gave him an autographed bat.
Owen died on July 27 of complications from leukemia. He was 9, and he wanted to be an ice hockey player when he grew up.

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Matt Brown

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Categories: Extraordinary People

In the 1970s, Matthew Clelon Brown was a Muscular Dystrophy Association poster child. The picture of the brown-haired, wheelchair-bound boy getting hugged by comedian Jerry Lewis helped put a human face on the disease.
Brown was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a condition that leads to severe muscular weakness and respiratory failure. Doctors predicted he wouldn’t live past childhood.
Knowing his time was so limited, Brown got involved with the MDA. From 1977-1978, he served as the group’s national goodwill ambassador, traveling all over the U.S. and making appearances on several Labor Day telethons. He was featured on “60 Minutes” and “Good Morning America,” and visited with President Jimmy Carter.
Although he suffered from repeated bouts of illness, Brown graduated from high school, married, volunteered with the MDA and became a telemarketer in Eastanollee, Ga. He sold water purification systems and magazines using a special pair of headphones because he couldn’t lift up a telephone. He also published his autobiography, “Crying in the Night,” in 1995.
“I want to change the illusion that the disabled are invalid and incapable of leading happy, normal lives without discrimination,” Brown once said.
Brown died on July 18 of complications from pneumonia and spinal muscular atrophy. He was 35.

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Jane Barbe

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Categories: Extraordinary People

jbarbe.jpg“The time is now 4:56.”
If you’ve ever called the local phone number for time, you probably heard Jane Barbe’s recorded voice.
For four decades, Barbe was the “The Telephone Lady,” the voice actress hired by telecommunication companies around the globe to tell millions of customers the date, time and weather. She was also the voice behind the message: “The number you have reached is not in service. Please check the number and try your call again.”
Barbe studied drama at the University of Georgia and worked as a featured singer with the Buddy Morrow Orchestra. Her husband, John Barbe, was the band’s music arranger.
In 1963, Barbe recorded messages for Audichron, a pioneering voice mail company. Her recordings were then used in 2,000 business and government phone systems. Anyone caught in voice mail purgatory probably heard her request to “Please hold.”
“You hear my voice in more than 1,000 cities in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, South America, Canada. Vocally, I get around,” Barbe once said.
Although she had a Southern drawl, Barbe could speak in unaccented English or with an Australian accent. She appeared in TV commercials for Coca Cola and Delta Airlines, and helped found the Atlanta, Ga., branch of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Barbe died on July 18 from cancer at the age of 74. Her voice will live on.
Hear a Barbe Recording

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Selahattin Ulkumen

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Categories: Extraordinary People

The diplomatic interventions of Selahattin Ulkumen, “the Turkish Schindler,” saved the lives of 42 Jewish families during World War II.
In 1943, the Germans invaded the Turkish island of Rhodes and ordered all 1,700 Jews to report for “temporary transportation to a small island nearby.” Ulkumen, the 30-year-old Turkish consul-general, intervened with the German commander, General von Kleeman. He explained that Turkey was neutral in the war, and that all religions were equal in the eyes of Turkish law. He then asked for all of the Turkish Jews in custody be released. The general agreed and 42 Jewish families were spared. The rest were taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
After the incident, two German planes bombed the Turkish consulate. Ulkumen’s pregnant wife, Mihrinissa, was seriously injured in the blast. They were deported to Piraeus, where he spent the remainder of the war in jail. Mihrinissa died from her injuries a week after giving birth to their son.
The war ended and Ulkumen returned to Turkey. He worked for the diplomatic service for another three decades, and in 2001, received Turkey’s highest honor — the Supreme Service Medal.
Ulkumen died on June 7. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.

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