Gladys Mae Willis, 96, of Little Rock, Ark., died Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

Willis was the widow of Ernest Willis, who died in 1967 attempting to save an 8-year-old boy from drowning in a concrete drainage ditch which had overflowed due to heavy rain in Little Rock.

In keeping with Commission founder Andrew Carnegie’s wish that those financially dependent upon heroes “should not suffer pecuniarily,” Willis was given a continuing monthly grant for 51 years, lasting until the time of her death. Her son Donnie contacted the Commission to express how very thankful they were for the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission and how much his mother appreciated everything that was done for her.

Willis is survived by her children, Mary, Donnie, and Debbie.


Duane E. Vanlanham, 59, of Saginaw, Mich., died Friday, June 14, 2019.

Vanlanham was awarded the Carnegie Medal in 2010 for rescuing a woman from attacking dogs. He immediately ran to the woman and worked to free her. A car stopped at the scene, and the woman entered it to get away.

Vanlanham then attempted to escape to the hood of the car, but the dogs pulled him from it, took him to the ground, and mauled him, inflicting severe injury to his legs and feet. Vanlanham developed complications that required amputation of several fingers and toes.

In September 2018, Vanlanham was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer. He was always fun and energetic. He loved to hang out with family and play dominoes. Most of all, he was very proud to be considered a hero.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account called “Burial For Saginaw Hometown Hero” to help with funeral expenses.

He is survived by children, Leslie Banks and Duane Vanlanham, Jr.; sister, Debra Baston; brothers, Walter Cureton and Fredrick Crow; four grandchildren; and numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.

Related articles:

    Nothing yet.

Return to imPULSE index.
See PDF of this issue