imPULSE, a publication of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, published an article in a recent issue about the 1st person to be awarded the prestigious medal. With permission from Editor Walter Rutkowski, here are some excerpts. The fund was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1904.
One hundred and six years — to the day — that the first awardee of the Carnegie Medal performed his heroic act, on July 17, 1904, members of his extended family gathered at his gravesite to place a bronze marker signifying his distinction as a medal awardee. The markers, made in the likeness of the medal, are made available to the families of the deceased awardees by the Hero Fund.
The Hero Fund's attention was called to the lifesaving actions of Louis A. Baumann, Jr., by his father, Louis A., Sr., in a handwritten letter of Sept. 15, 1904, that included signatures of six witnesses to the rescue. The nomination was the 201st to be received by the Hero Fund since its founding the previous April 15. To date, more than 83,000 nominations for the award have been made.
The penciled note survives in the Commission's files, as does the case investigator's typewritten report, which details the heroic act. According to the report, Baumann was one of 10 young men who on “an ideal summer day” in July 1904 set out for a farm pond near his home “for an afternoon's sport in the water.”
One of the youths, Charles Stevick, 16, dived into the pond from a springboard, but he shouted for help when he surfaced and then sank. Twice Baumann entered the water for him but each time had to break away from him and return to the bank to catch his breath. On his third attempt, Baumann grabbed Stevick by the hand and dragged him along the bottom of the pond until the other boys, forming a chain, helped remove him from the water. Stevick was unconscious when taken from the pond but was revived on the bank.
Since the Baumann award, 9,371 Carnegie Medals have been given throughout the U.S. and Canada, with 3,383 of them — 36% — recognizing acts of rescue from drowning.
“I first remember seeing the medal as a teenager,” Bauman said. “The inscription on the back of it impressed me, even at that age.” He was referring to the Bible verse from the New Testament, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), that rims each medal.
Proving Carnegie's prescience, members of Baumann's family had his medal on display, propping it against his headstone for the ceremony. The grave marker, cast in bronze, had been set in a sunken granite post atop the grave. The Hero Fund began distributing grave markers, at no charge to the awardees' families, in 2007 and to date has issued 200 of them
For more information about the Hero Fund and its medals, see:
Carnegie Hero Fund Commission
Wayne Homren, Editor
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