Categotry Archives: Extraordinary People

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Dorothy Godfrey

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Categories: Extraordinary People

When her 31-year-old daughter committed suicide, Dorothy Godfrey sought comfort at a support group for grieving parents. A man whose son had died in a motorcycle accident responded to the news of her daughter’s death by saying, “She must be burning in hell.”
Although Godfrey left that meeting in tears, she eventually found a way to deal with her loss by helping others. In 1981, she and two friends co-founded Survivors of Suicide Loss (SOSL), a non-profit, nonsectarian organization for survivors of suicide victims to share their grieving experiences in a safe and comforting environment.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, SOSL provides information and counseling to thousands, runs a 24-hour hotline, holds regular support group meetings in two southern California counties and operates a speakers bureau. The organization also publishes a newsletter and Website, and helps police, coroners, clergy, funeral directors and other members of the community understand the special needs of people who’ve survived the death of a loved one to suicide.
Godfrey was born Dorothy Henderson in Downers Grove, Ill. She spent two years studying at Northwestern University, where she met her husband, Vince Godfrey. The couple moved to San Diego in 1939 and had two daughters, Judy and Susan.
After Judy’s death, Godfrey worked on the SOSL hotline and trained many of its facilitators. She also ran in-person meetings and served on the organization’s board of directors. For her efforts, Godfrey received the KGTV-Channel 10 Leadership Award in 2000, and was named Volunteer of the Year from the Mental Health Community of San Diego in 2001.
Godfrey died on Dec. 20 of complications from congestive heart failure and kidney failure. She was 90.

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Rosa Parks

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Categories: Extraordinary People

A few courageous people stand up for what they believe in. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks made her point by sitting down.
In Dec. 1955, the 43-year-old black seamstress took a seat in the front of the “colored” section on a Montgomery, Ala., bus. Tired from a long day of work, she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, even after the bus driver James Blake ordered her to do so. Parks refused to be inconvenienced by the city’s discriminatory segregation laws and was arrested for her impertinence. Four days later, a judge convicted her of disorderly conduct and fined her $14.
Parks’ arrest sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system by black riders, a peaceful protest that was organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and led the Supreme Court to strike down Montgomery’s segregated bus law (Browder v. Gayle). The rest of the country continued to abide by the “separate but equal” doctrine until 1964, when the Civil Rights Act required all public accommodations be desegregated.
Born in Tuskegee, Ala., Parks was the daughter of James McCauley, a carpenter, and Leona Edwards McCauley, a schoolteacher. She attended Alabama State Teachers College, earned a high school diploma and was married to Raymond Parks, a barber, from 1932 until his death in 1977. Prior to her arrest, Parks worked as a secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was active in the voter registration movement. Her act of civil disobedience, however, cost Parks her job at the Montgomery Fair department store.
After receiving numerous death threats, Rosa and Raymond relocated to Detroit. She worked on the staff of U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) for 20 years, and later co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, which helps young people pursue educational opportunities and work toward racial harmony.
Although friends described Parks as quiet, diplomatic and eloquent, the woman known as the “mother of the civil rights movement” could also be a powerful speaker. In fact, she remained active on the lecture circuit well into her 80s. Parks was the subject of the 2002 documentary, “Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks,” which received an Academy Award nomination for best documentary short. She was also honored with numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, and inducted into the Academy of Achievement in 1995.
Parks died on Oct. 24 of natural causes at the age of 92. Her body was flown to Montgomery and then to the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. A procession of city buses, including a vintage Metropolitan bus dressed in black bunting, followed her hearse to the Capitol, and a military honor guard served as her pallbearers. Over the course of two days, more than 30,000 people filed past her casket to pay their respects.
Watch an Interview With Parks
Listen to Tributes From NPR

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Henny van Andel-Schipper

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, the world’s oldest person, died in her sleep on Aug. 30. She was 115.
Born prematurely in 1890, Van Andel-Schipper’s mother once declared: “This child is not meant to live.” Henny not only lived, she thrived into her supercentenarian years. She didn’t attend school but learned to read and write at home.
Van Andel-Schipper grew up in Smilde, Netherlands. She lived with her parents for 47 years and taught needlework. Then in 1939, at the age of 49, she married Dick van Andel, a tax inspector. The couple moved to Hoogeveen, where she sold her jewelry to pay for food during the German occupation. Her husband died of cancer in 1959. They had no children.
Van Andel-Schipper underwent a mastectomy in 1995 after being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 100. She moved to the Westerkim retirement home when she was 106, but remained fairly healthy in her later years. One of the highlights of her life was meeting Queen Beatrix for tea in 2001.
The Guinness Book of World Records declared Van Andel-Schipper to be the world’s oldest person in May 2004. When asked for the secret of longevity, she said she ate right and never smoked or drank too much alcohol. Van Andel-Schipper also suggested people eat pickled herring, drink orange juice and “keep breathing.”
“She was very clear mentally right up to the end, but the physical ailments were increasing. She said, ‘It’s been nice, but the man upstairs says it’s time to go,'” Johan Beijering, the director of the nursing home where she lived, said.
Van Andel-Schipper donated her body to science. The oldest authenticated person is now Elizabeth Bolden, 115, of Memphis, Tenn.

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Ambrogio Fogar

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Ambrogio Fogar, an Italian adventurer who circumnavigated the globe and walked to the North Pole, died on Aug. 23 of heart failure. He was 64.
Born in Milan, Fogar first achieved international fame in 1973 when he sailed around the world. He increased the difficulty of his solo trek by traveling east to west — against the currents and the direction of the wind. Four years later, Fogar attempted to sail to Antarctica, but the trip was a disaster.
During the expedition, a school of killer whales sunk his sail boat. For the next 74 days, he and journalist Mauro Mancini bobbed in open water on a life raft. They were saved when a freighter picked them up 1,300 miles from where their boat went down. Mancini died of pneumonia a few days after being rescued.
Fogar then switched to land-based adventures. In 1983, he completed a seven-week walk to the North Pole with only a dog for company. But tragedy struck again in 1992 when Fogar was severely injured in an auto accident. He was competing in a Paris-Moscow-Beijing car rally when his jeep flipped over in the desert of Turkmenistan. The accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Undaunted, Fogar became an advocate for the handicapped. From a wheelchair, he wrote numerous books (“Solo: The Strength to Live,” “Fighting Currents: My Greatest Adventure”) and newspaper articles, and participated in the 1997 “Operation Hope” sailing expedition to promote awareness for the disabled. The trip involved sailing the entire length of the Italian coastline on a boat that had been specially adapted to his needs.
Fogar believed the latest stem cell experiments being tested in China would give him the ability to walk again. Two months ago, he announced his plans to travel to Asia and offer himself up as a human guinea pig to neurosurgeon Huang Hongyun.
“I won’t let go,” Fogar once said. “I hope one day to walk again with my legs. I won’t accept that those whose lives are on hold give up, and I don’t want to believe that I will die like this, immobile.”

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Matthew McGrory

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Categories: Actors, Extraordinary People, Hollywood

mmcgrory2.jpgMatthew McGrory, an actor who starred in nearly a dozen Hollywood pictures, died on Aug. 9. He was 32.

A native of West Chester, Pa., McGrory weighed 15 pounds and was 24 inches long at his birth. By the time he reached the first grade, he was over 5 feet tall. From that point on, all of his clothes and shoes had to be handmade at great expense to accommodate his growing dimensions.

McGrory played the drums and attended law school at Widener University, then broke into show business on Howard Stern’s radio show in the 1990s. His deep voice was a hit with listeners — and with people in the industry who hired him to appear in music videos for Iron Maiden and Marilyn Manson.

Acting offers followed as well. McGrory played a human Sasquatch in “Bubble Boy,” Tiny Firefly in “House of 1000 Corpses” and its sequel “The Devil’s Rejects,” an alien in “Men in Black II” and Karl the Giant in the box office hit “Big Fish.” He also did guest appearances on the TV shows “The Pretender,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Charmed.”

McGrory was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world’s largest feet (size 29 1/2) and for being the world’s tallest actor (7 feet, 6 inches). At the time of his death, he was working on a biopic of wrestler-turned-actor Andre the Giant.

“Like Andre, sometimes he just wanted to be able to walk around and be a regular guy and not have people ask him how tall he is or how much he weighs. He wanted to ride in a sports car, and he loved making movies, but it made him sad that he couldn’t even go to theaters to watch them because he was too big for the seats,” director Drew Sky said.

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