Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fascinating People - Part 1

For several years, I have collected articles about intriguing people, individuals who weren't afraid of life's obstacles and as a result made the world a better place. These fascinating people deserve attention and their timeless attitudes are worthy of note. Beginning with this entry, I will sprinkle the blog with some of these stories.

In 1995, I first read about Norman D. Vaughan. One morning, I was riding the Metro train from my home in suburban Virginia to my desk job in Washington D.C. and life was fairly dull. Then I suddenly encountered an article about Norman D. Vaughan, a man who seemed to have his life together. I was hooked.

By way of background, Norman D. Vaughan was 22 years old student at Harvard in 1927. His freshman grades were so dismal that he had been banished temporarily to Labrador to help a medical missionary make rounds by dog sled. Although successful completion of the trip allowed Vaughan to be readmitted to Harvard, he was permanently under the spell of cold weather adventure. The next semester, he read a newspaper article about Admiral Richard Byrd's planned expedition to the South Pole. Vaughan quit school to go along.

During that trip, Byrd discovered a 10,300-foot mountain in the Queen Maud Mountains and named the formation for Vaughan. In 1994, Vaughan returned to the Antarctic and climbed "his" mountain, reaching the summit in time to celebrate his 89th birthday. Oh, and by that time he had a fused right ankle and knee replacement, which made climbing a bit slow.

In World War II, while an Arctic search and rescue officer for the Army Air Force, Vaughan took 209 sled dogs into Belgium to evacuate snowbound soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge. At the age of 84, Vaughan finished his 13th Iditarod Sled Dog Race, a feat that took 24 days. At the age of 96, he carried the Olympic torch in Juneau, passing the flame from a wheelchair.

Norman D. Vaughan is quoted as saying, "You don't hear so much about people with a dream today. It's almost as if they're afraid to discover what they're individually capable of and would rather just follow the other fellow. But all of us have more inside us than we believe possible. We have to dream big and dare to fail to bring it out."

Vaughan had a hard time of it through mid-life, just as many other people do. Two years without snow in New England wiped out his snowmobile rental business. In 1974, at the age of 68, Vaughan relocated to Anchorage, Alaska. "The first thing I did was borrow a snow shovel and go door-to-door shoveling snow to make money. Of course, at first everyone said I was too old."

But through the years he had formulated a plan to return to the mountain named for him by Admiral Byrd. And he did just that.

Norman D. Vaughan died in December 2005 just a few days after his 100th birthday. Having sought adventure his entire life, Vaughan's motto was "Dream big and dare to fail."

It's refreshing to read about people who live life to its fullest, regardless of situations or the passing of years.

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