Henry Naumann, Hero Nos. 1972, 2278

Henry Naumann, a train crossing watchman of Hammond, Indiana, in 1924 and in 1927, was struck by trains as he pushed women out of their paths.

In 1924, Naumann, 46, saw a 56-year-old woman fall on the tracks about 25 feet away as a train approached at a speed of 18 m.p.h. Naumann ran to her and pushed her across the track. His heel was struck by the train and both he and the woman fell to the ground beside the track. He recovered.

Just three years later, one day before he was to retire, Naumann was at his post when a 52-year-old woman ran under lowered gates at a crossing and fell across a track where a train was approaching at a speed of 20 m.p.h. Naumann ran 22 feet to the middle of the track, grabbed the woman’s clothing, and pulled at her as he jumped over the rail. They were both struck and hurled off the track. The woman died from her injuries. Naumann’s right leg was crushed and had to be amputated a week after the accident. According to an article by the Associated Press, in addition to the Carnegie Medal, President Calvin Coolidge presented Naumann with the Medal of Honor.

Although Naumann was described as nonchalant and chatty in his “well known effervescent manner” following the operation that resulted in the amputation of his leg, Louie Tobedo, one of Naumann’s “staunchest friends,” according to a April 5, 1927, newspaper article, said that the loss of his leg would be hard for Naumann.

“[Naumann] will never let his many friends know just how much the loss of his leg meant to him,” Tobedo said. “To sit still for any length of time was a real punishment for Naumann.”

Starting in 1928, the Hero Fund provided a monthly stipend to Naumann for nearly 12 years until his death in 1940.

I have long felt that the heroes and those dependent upon them should be freed from pecuniary cares resulting from their heroism

Andrew Carnegie Hero Fund founder

John J. O’Neill, Sr., Hero Nos. 4039, 4127

John J. O’Neill, Sr., whose road maintenance garage sat 250 feet away from the Yonkers (New York) City Pier, saved women in 1954 and 1956, who had fallen from the pier into deep, cold water of the Hudson River.

In 1954, a 41-year-old waitress fell into the Hudson River and, despite having been advised by a physician to avoid physical exertion due to a heart condition, O’Neill ran 250 feet to a ledge along the river as another man tossed a rope to the woman, who failed to grab it. Breathing heavily from running, O’Neill doffed his shoes. The man with the rope warned him not to jump because of his health, but O’Neill ignored him and jumped 14 feet to the water. He swam 10 feet to the woman, and encircled her waist, bringing her to the surface of the water. By now she was unresponsive. O’Neill towed her to the nearest pier support where a ladder had been lowered and others assisted them from the water. The woman was revived and both she and O’Neill were treated at a local hospital for shock and exposure. They recovered.

Two years later, at night, a 62-year-old woman fell from the pier into the water in December. O’Neill hurried to the same ledge and dropped 14 feet to the near-freezing water, swam 30 feet to the woman, grabbed her, and towed her back to a ladder that others had lowered. As O’Neill held to the ladder and the woman, the rough water caused his head to strike the wall repeatedly; and ice formed on his face and clothing. A rope was lowered to O’Neill, but his hands were so cold he could not tie it to the woman. A man descended the ladder and tied the rope around the woman, who was lifted from the water by others. O’Neill was aided up the ladder. They were treated at the hospital for shock and exposure, and O’Neill’s heart condition was aggravated temporarily. He was hospitalized a week and then recuperated at home for two months.

Ruddell Stitch, Hero Nos. 4230, 4350

Rudell Stitch with wife Rosa Mae and three of their sons, circa 1955. From left, Rudell, Jr.; Rodney, and Donald.
Carnegie Hero Rudell Stitch’s “Hometown Heroes” mural in Louisville, Ky.

Ruddell Stitch, a Louisville, Kentucky, boxer, in 1958 went to the aid of man who had fallen into the Ohio River and kept him afloat until another person could assist them out of the water, and, in 1960, died attempting to rescue his friend from drowning at the same location.

At the age of 26, Stitch was fishing on Sept. 16, 1958, at a dam on the Ohio River near Louisville, when a 37-year-old dam operator who was repairing leaks in the dam fell into the water, fracturing his leg on an underwater rock. Unable to swim due to his injury and the weight of his rubber clothing, the man struggled to stay afloat in the water. Without taking the time to remove his boots or clothing, Stitch waded into the water and took hold of the man. The swift current swept them both downstream, but Stitch maintained his hold of the man, keeping him afloat, as they drifted about 70 feet. Another man entered the water and aided Stitch in towing the man to the bank.

About 18 months later, Stitch was fishing in the same spot with his 25-year-old friend on June 5, 1960. Stitch was aiding the man, who was a poor swimmer, across  the concrete sill of the dam, when the man lost his footing and washed into the Ohio River, pulling Stitch with him. The two men were separated, and the friend was swept downstream. Stitch submerged and removed his boots, trousers, and raincoat. Stitch surfaced and swam toward his friend who was about 25 feet farther downstream. Suddenly the man sank near a pier of a bridge. Stitch swam 100 feet to the point where the man disappeared and dived. Not finding his friend on the first attempt, he dived again, this time submerging and not resurfacing. They both drowned.

Stitch left behind his widow and six children. His widow, Rosa Mae, was shot and killed two years after Stitch’s death in a domestic altercation with her boyfriend, who also killed himself. At that time the Hero Fund provided a monthly stipend to help the children’s grandmother care for the family for 16 years.

I remember, as a kid, going through his scrapbooks. It was like reading a comic for a superhero. It was the story of a great man, but then, in the end, he dies.

Darryl Stitch Rudell Stitch's youngest child

Daniel Elwood Stockwell, Hero Nos. 4723, 7657

Daniel Elwood Stockwell, who at age 20, saved a man from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Phippsburg, Maine, in 1963, and, then 29 years later, as a Keene, New Hampshire, principal offered himself in exchange for 15 seventh-graders who were being held hostage by a 16-year-old boy armed with a high-powered rifle, allowing the students to escape unharmed.

On May 12, 1963, a 20-year-old man was washed off a rocky ledge into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Phippsburg, Maine. He drifted seaward in waves 4 to 6 feet high. One 18-year-old student, holding a lifeline fashioned out of articles of clothing, climbed down to a ledge and attempted to throw the line to the man without success. A large wave swept the 18-year-old off the ledge. Meanwhile, Stockwell, a 20-year-old student, had run 150 feet to a small beach opposite the two students in the water. He tied one end of a 50-foot rope around his waist, and while others held the rope, he swam 35 feet through the waves, reaching the 20-year-old, who was unconscious. Stockwell took a hold of the man and aided by people pulling on the rope, Stockwell reached the beach with the man, who was revived and recovered. The 18-year-old drowned.

Stockwell was nearly 30 years older when he received the Carnegie Medal for the second time. Principal of an East Swanzey, New Hampshire school, on Oct. 15, 1991, he went to a classroom where 15 seventh-graders were being held hostage by a 16-year-old boy armed with a high-powered rifle. Stockwell entered the room and offered himself as a substitute hostage in exchange for the students’ release; the assailant agreed. The students exited the room unharmed. For the next 40 minutes, Stockwell, at gunpoint, conversed with the assailant, until police entered the room and subdued him.

Stockwell died Sept. 15, 2009.

Charles T. Carbonell, Sr., Hero Nos. 9151, 9691

Charles T. Carbonell, Sr., was awarded the Carnegie Medal twice four years apart: in 2007 after rescuing a police officer from assault, and in 2011, after partially entering an overturned and burning sport utility vehicle to remove its driver.

Charles T. Carbonell, Sr., 50, was driving on Feb. 12, 2007, in Tampa, Florida, when he saw a 57-year-old police officer fighting for control of his handgun with another man. He ran to the scene and peeled the assailant’s fingers from the gun, enabling the officer to reholster it. The assailant continued to struggle violently as Carbonell and the officer attempted to subdue him. Taking him to the ground, they placed him in handcuffs before backup officers arrived.

On Nov. 14, 2011, a 41-year-old woman was trapped in a sport utility vehicle after an accident in which the vehicle rolled off the highway and came to rest upside down in a stretch of wetland in Lakeland, Florida. Flames erupted in the engine compartment and spread to the car’s exposed undercarriage. Carbonell ran to the burning vehicle and pulled on the driver’s door, which was unlocked, but the mud prevented him from opening it wide enough. After some struggle, he succeeded in opening the door wider. He then leaned head first into the vehicle despite growing and spreading flames outside and inside the car. Carbonell took hold of Guzman and pulled her out of the vehicle. He stood her on the ground, but as her feet sank partway into the mud, he picked her up and carried her back to the highway.

carnegie medal awardee

I won’t hesitate to help anybody. But you don’t do it for the recognition, you do it because you want to.

Charles T. Carbonell, Sr. Carnegie Hero

Michael Robert Keyser, Hero Nos. 7617, 10209

Michael Robert Keyser is the sixth person in Hero Fund history to receive a second Carnegie Medal. Keyser received the Carnegie Medal at the age of 19, when he risked electrocution to pull a 37-year-old driver from his vehicle that had struck a utility pole. Thirty years later, he again went to the aid of a motorist in an overturned tractor-trailer and attempted to break the windshield to pull the man from the car, when another semi-truck careened into the overturned truck which hit and killed Keyser.

When he was 19, Keyser arrived at the scene of a one-vehicle accident on Feb. 25, 1990, off an Apple Valley, California, highway. The vehicle had struck a utility pole, causing the pole to break off and then hang from the lines it had supported, and flames erupted in the front end of the car. Although two other passersby had been shocked while in proximity to the car, Keyser reached through the opened driver’s door, pulled the 37-year-old driver from the vehicle, and took him to safety. 

On Jan. 19, 2020, in Apple Valley, California, Keyser, a 49-year-old mine worker of Hesperia, California, was driving at night when he saw the overturned semi-truck, with its tractor extending about 3 feet into the roadway. Keyser stopped and, on foot, crossed the highway and approached the scene. At the truck, he pounded on the truck’s windshield with a flashlight as the truck driver stood inside the cab, unable to lift himself out of the opened driver’s window. Within seconds, another semi-truck hauling two trailers containing hundreds of pounds of flammable lighter fluid struck the overturned semi, pushing it and Keyser off the highway into the desert. The trucks immediately erupted in flames. Keyser and the man he was trying to rescue died.