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LEROY COLOMBO: Champion Swimmer and Record-Breaking Lifeguard

LEROY COLOMBO: Champion Swimmer and Record-Breaking Lifeguard

LeRoy Colombo (1905 – 1974) was mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records for having saved 907 confirmed lives during his 40-year career as a lifeguard, breaking all records at the time; some reports suggest that he saved more than a thousand lives. Colombo was diagnosed with spinal meningitis at the age of 7, resulting in a complete loss of hearing and paralysis in his legs. His family encouraged him to learn to swim to strengthen his legs, and within a year he was able to walk again.

His love for swimming shaped his destiny. Colombo became involved in long-distance swimming and was accepted into the Toboggan Club in Galveston – a feat that mandated an entry test of three straight hours of swimming without pause – and swam across the Gulf of Mexico in eleven hours. At the age of 18, he became a lifeguard along the beach at Galveston, although by that time he had already saved several lives in an unofficial capacity, beginning with a rescue at the age of twelve. Some were unsure that, with his hearing loss, Colombo could serve as an efficient lifeguard, but his service soon proved that he was more than up to the task. Jean F. Andrews, a professor in the Department of Deaf Studies at Lamar University recently published a book on Colombo’s life titled High Tides, Low Tides.

After Colombo’s death in 1974, a plaque was erected along the seawall in Galveston, recognizing his accomplishments.

Attributions:

* Start ASL: http://www.start-american-sign-language.com/leroy-colombo.html
* VC Interpreting: http://www.vcinterpreting.com/bloggin-about-community/overcoming-the-odds-leroy-colombo/
* If My Hands Could Speak blog: http://ifmyhandscouldspeak.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/leroy-colombo-life-saver/
* Lamar University Press: http://www.lamaruniversitypress.org/nonfiction.php

Part of Disability History Month provided by Office of the Governor Rick Perry – Committee on People with Disabilities

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