Categotry Archives: Extraordinary People

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Geraldine Doyle

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Before World War II, 12 million American women worked outside the home, usually in traditionally female and poorly paid occupations, like the service sector. The rest of the female population generally married, raised children and volunteered for social and religious organizations. But when the fighting in Europe and Japan called men away from their jobs, 6 million additional women left the home and supported the war effort by entering the work force.

One woman who answered the call was Geraldine Hoff Doyle of Lansing, Mich. After graduating from high school, the 17-year-old cellist took a job at the American Broach & Machine Co., a metal-processing plant in Ann Arbor. Doyle was wearing a red and white polka-dot bandanna and leaning over a piece of machinery one day when a United Press International photographer took her picture. That image inspired J. Howard Miller, a graphic artist at the U.S. War Production Coordinating Committee, to illustrate a poster featuring a woman wearing a similar bandanna and the motto: “We Can Do It!”.

The woman in the poster became known as a “Rosie the Riveter,” after a 1942 song of the same name, and she helped to encourage women to find jobs and achieve their economic independence. When the war ended and the men returned home, women were generally expected to return to their domestic lives, but Doyle’s famous poster empowered some to buck tradition and take control of their own destiny.

Doyle actually left her factory job shortly after the photograph was taken because a co-worker had badly injured her hands while toiling at the machines. Fearing a similar fate, Doyle took safer jobs, like working at a soda fountain and a book store. She wed Leo Doyle, a young dental school student, and together they raised six children. Over the course of their 66-year marriage, the couple also ran a successful dental practice in Lansing. He died in February 2010.

Doyle didn’t realize her place in women’s history until the early 1980s when she saw an article in Modern Maturity magazine, and connected the UPI photo of her younger self with the iconic “We Can Do It!” poster. The image also appeared on the cover of the Time-Life book “The Patriotic Tide: 1940-1950.” The “We Can Do It!” poster was later used by the feminist movement of the 1970sĀ and 1980s and appeared on a 33-cent stamp issued in 1999 by the U.S. Postal Service.

Another Michigan woman, Rose Will Monroe, who was featured in a promotional film about women factory workers, was also a well-known “Rosie.” When people would call Doyle a “Rosie the Riveter,” she would always correct them and say she was the ‘We Can Do It!” girl.

Doyle died on Dec. 26 from complications of severe arthritis. She was 86.

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Edith Shain

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Categories: Extraordinary People, Medicine

shain.jpgWhen Edith “Edie” Shain kissed a stranger 65 years ago, she became a part of history.
The New York native was working as a nurse at the now-demolished Doctors Hospital in Manhattan on August 14, 1945, when President Harry S. Truman announced that the war with Japan had ended. To celebrate, Shain headed to Times Square, where she encountered an equally-joyous American seaman wearing a dark-blue uniform. Just as she emerged from the subway, the sailor pulled Shain into his arms and kissed her. That kiss was captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, who published the image in Life Magazine. It eventually became the most reproduced picture in the history of the publication.
For decades, Eisenstaedt didn’t know the identity of the couple immortalized in his iconic V-J Day photograph; the couple apparently parted ways and disappeared into the cheering crowd right after the kiss ended. But in the late 1970s, Shain wrote to Eisenstaedt and claimed to be the nurse in the picture.
Shain’s letter gave the editors of Life Magazine the idea to write a followup article. That story, which appeared in the Aug. 1980 issue, urged the kissing sailor to come forward. Two months later, the editors noted that 11 men and three women had claimed to be the subjects of the photograph. Although Shain is generally considered to have the best claim — Eisenstaedt agreed that she was the woman in the picture after meeting her in California — the identity of the sailor remains a mystery.
“Someone grabbed me and kissed me, and I let him because he fought for his country,” Shain once said. “I closed my eyes when I kissed him. I never saw him.”
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of V-J Day, artist J. Seward Johnson II designed a 25-foot, 6,000 pound replica of the kiss that he called “Unconditional Surrender.” A life-size aluminum statue of the famous embrace also stands in Times Square, and each year couples gather near it and reenact the amorous moment of jubilation.
After the war ended, Shain earned an education degree from New York University. She moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s and spent the next three decades teaching kindergarten and first grade and raising a family. To make ends meet, she moonlighted as a nurse at an area hospital.
Once Shain went public about appearing in the Life magazine photo, veterans groups around the nation invited her to take part in commemorative events. In 2008, she even served as the grand marshal in New York City’s Veterans Day parade.
Shain died on June 20 of liver cancer. She was 91.
(Photo by Troy Li. Used with permission.)


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He Pingping

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Categories: Extraordinary People

He Pingping, the world’s shortest man, made a big impression on everyone who crossed his path.
Born in Huade County in Wulanchabu, China, He was afflicted with a form of primordial dwarfism. People with this very rare condition are born at extremely low birth weights and generally grow into a smaller but proportional body size. Their bones are very thin and they face numerous health risks, including scoliosis, heart issues and aneurysm. Few primordial dwarfs live past the age of 30.
He stopped growing when he turned 18, after reaching a height of 2 feet, 5.37 inches. In 2008, the Guinness World Records officially named him as the shortest man in the world. Over the next two years, He traveled to the U.S., Japan, Britain and Italy to take part in photo shoots and TV shows, and appeared in the documentary, “The World’s Smallest Man and Me.”
Privately, He enjoyed watching TV, listening to music, smoking and spending time with cats. His home included several features adapted to someone of diminutive size, including lowered doorknobs and a special chair that allowed him to eat from a table. When he wasn’t on the road, He helped out at his sister’s cafe in Inner Mongolia.
“From the moment I laid on eyes on him I knew he was someone special — he had such a cheeky smile and mischievous personality, you couldn’t help but be charmed by him,” Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records, said. “He brightened up the lives of everyone he met, and was an inspiration to anyone considered different or unusual.”
He died on March 13 of a heart condition at the age of 21. Khagendra Thapa Magar, who is 22 inches tall, is likely to claim the record for world’s smallest man later this year.

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Tsutomu Yamaguchi

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only person who was ever officially recognized as a survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings at the end of World War II, died on Jan. 4 of stomach cancer. He was 93.
Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip for his employer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, on Aug. 6, 1945. The 29-year-old oil tanker designer was stepping off a tram when the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a 13-kiloton uranium atomic bomb on the city. The massive explosion destroyed Yamaguchi’s left eardrum, temporarily blinded and balded him and left serious burns on his upper body. Others were not so fortunate; at least 70,000 people died as a result of the initial blast.
After spending the night in a bomb shelter, Yamaguchi returned to his home in Nagasaki. He spent two days recuperating from his injuries, then covered his body in gauze and went to work. As Yamaguchi was explaining what had happened in Hiroshima to his boss, the U.S. B-29 bomber Bock’s Car released its destructive payload, this time on Nagasaki. According to the Nagasaki City Atomic Bomb Records Preservation Committee, the explosion killed more than 73,800 people.
Yamaguchi survived again.
Twelve years after the war ended, Yamaguchi was recognized as a hibakusha, an explosion-affected person, of the Nagasaki bombing. Certification as an atomic bomb survivor qualified him for government compensation, including a monthly stipend, free medical checkups and funeral costs. It would take another 52 years until the Japanese government officially recognized his presence in Hiroshima.
About 260,000 people survived the atomic bomb attacks on Japan, and many of them suffered the effects from radiation exposure. Yamaguchi’s wife suffered radiation poisoning from the black rain that fell after the Nagasaki explosion; she died in 2008 of kidney and liver cancer. All three of Yamaguchi’s children also suffered from health problems.
After Japan surrendered, Yamaguchi worked as a ship engineer in the local port, a translator for the occupying American forces and a schoolmaster. In the final years of his life, he wrote a memoir and appeared in the 2006 documentary “Twice Bombed, Twice Survived: The Doubly Atomic Bombed of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” When the film was screened at the United Nations, Yamaguchi spoke to the delegates and called for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

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Ruth Lilly

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Categories: Extraordinary People, Writers/Editors

As an heiress, Ruth E. Lilly could have lived a very comfortable life doing anything she wanted or absolutely nothing at all. Instead, she decided to fund a wide variety of causes and help those in need. And over the course of her nine decades on this planet, she gave away more than half a billion dollars to educational and cultural organizations.
Born in Indianapolis, Lilly was the last surviving great-grandchild of Col. Eli Lilly, who founded the pharmaceutical empire Eli Lilly and Company in 1876. Last year, the company employed over 40,000 workers, earned $21 billion in sales and was ranked #570 on the Forbes 2000 List.
Lilly was still in her teens when she began writing poetry, but it took her nearly 50 years to submit her work, under a pseudonym, to Poetry magazine. Although the influential literary journal rejected her poems, the editors also sent handwritten notes offering critiques of her writing. This left quite an impression on Lilly, and in 1986, she bequeathed $100 million to the magazine. The gift ensured that Poetry would continue publishing in perpetuity. In response, Poetry became a non-profit organization known as the Poetry Foundation, launched the annual Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which gives $100,000 to a contemporary poet in honor of a lifetime of a achievement, and created five Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships for aspiring poets.
“Poetry has no greater friend than Ruth Lilly,” said Poetry Foundation President John Barr. “Her historic gift is notable not only for its size — that part of her largesse is known to every corner of the poetry world — but also because it was made with no conditions or restrictions of any kind as to how it should be used for the benefit of poetry. In that, it was the purest expression of her love for the art that meant so much to her as poet herself, and as benefactor.”
Lilly’s quiet generosity also extended to many Indiana-based institutions. She bequeathed a major gift to the Lilly Endowment, the family’s main charitable organization. In 1966, Lilly and her brother, J.K. Lilly III, donated the site of their parents’ estate to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and provided a trust income to maintain it. A health education center, a learning center, a fitness center, a law library and a science library all exist and bear the Ruth Lilly name, thanks to her monetary contributions. Lilly rarely attended ceremonial events, though, preferring instead to have her chauffeur drive her past the institutions she had aided.
In private, Lilly struggled with day to day life. Depression plagued her for decades, and she spent much of her 40-year marriage to writer Guernsey Van Riper in a hospital. The couple divorced in 1981; they had no children. That same year, Lilly’s brother went to court and had her declared incompetent. From that point on, all of her donations had to be signed by an attorney.
Lilly finally found some relief from her illness in 1988, thanks to the invention of Prozac, which was made and distributed by Eli Lilly and Co. The anti-depressant allowed her to live the final years of her life in relative peace. For her many years of philanthropy, Lilly was awarded a doctor of humane letters degree from Wabash College in 1991, from Franklin College in 2003 and from Marian University and Indiana University in 2004.
Lilly died on Dec. 30 of heart failure. She was 94.

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