Gary Lee Thompson, 15, schoolboy, saved M. John and Lisa K. Wuest, 5 and 8, respectively, from drowning, Covington, Kentucky, March 3, 1968. When John and then Lisa broke through ice on a lake, they called for help as they floundered in the hole, which was 45 feet from the bank. Thompson and two other youths were attracted. Without delaying to remove any of his clothing, Thompson started toward John and Lisa but broke through five feet from the bank. He proceeded toward the hole by wading, breaking a path in the ice. Thirty-five feet from the bank he began swimming, breaking the ice ahead of him with his arms. Thompson reached the hole in which the water was seven feet deep, including 18 inches of soft mud. John and Lisa both took hold of Thompson by the shoulder, causing him to be submerged. He broke away and surfaced. Holding one child in each hand, Thompson then began moving backward in the path in the ice. He had to widen the path, and he did so with his elbows while still retaining his holds on John and Lisa. Thompson tired, and when he sought footing he again went under briefly. Slowly and with difficulty he moved the two children 10 feet from the hole. Thompson then found footing and, wading, took John and Lisa to the bank.
50138 – 551250138-5512
Gary Lee Thompson was a hero before he was even old enough to drive. In 1968, when he was just 15, Thompson jumped into an ice-covered Park Hills pond in Covington, Ky., and rescued two young children from drowning.
On March 3, 1968, 8-old Lisa Wuest and 5-year-old M. John Wuest walked onto the ice to retrieve a hat that had blown onto the pond. They fell through the ice and became submerged in seven feet of water. “He heard them yelling, and he had to actually break through the ice about 45 feet from shoreline to save those kids,” said his brother-in-law, Jerry Gibbs of Edgewood. Holding each child by the hand, Thompson waded back to shore, breaking a path in the ice with his elbows. The act earned him the prestigious Carnegie Award for heroism from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.
Thompson, 54, of Newport, Ky., died on Nov. 3, 2007, after a battle with leukemia. “He just went through life and treated people fairly,” said Gibbs. “He’d give you the shirt off his back–just as humble and down to earth as they come.”
While Thompson was proud of the Carnegie award — he always carried the medal with him — Gibbs said Thompson considered his daughters his greatest accomplishment. Thompson grew up in Park Hills, working for his father at the former Fort Mitchell Pharmacy. He later worked in restaurants, including Applebee’s at the time of his death. “He loved to cook. Cooking was his passion,” Gibbs said. “If there’s a grill or food to be fixed, just get out of his way.”
(Edited from The Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio, Nov. 8, 2007.)