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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Making a difference, repaying a debt--a life lived giving back

WWII pilot who forever repaid rescuers dies at 94: Islanders healed Fred Hargesheimer who returned to Ea Ea to build schools

Fred Hargesheimer got a second chance at life after being rescued by villagers of New Britain in Papua New Guinea. He'd been shot down by a Japanese fighter in World War II and was nursed back to health and hidden by the villagers until his returning to the US. The story could have ended there, a story of adventure to tell the grandkids. But Hargeshiemer did something far better--he returned to the village and spent decades building schools, libraries, helping create jobs, and even teaching the children there. He involved his family throughout that time, and tried to give back to the community as much as he could.
On his last visit, in 2006, Hargesheimer was helicoptered into the jungle and carried in a chair by Nakanai men to view the newly found wreckage of his World War II plane. Six years earlier, on another visit, he was proclaimed "Suara Auru," "Chief Warrior" of the Nakanai.

"The people were very happy. They'll always remember what Mr. Fred Hargesheimer has done for our people," said Ismael Saua, 69, a former teacher at the Nantabu school.

"These people were responsible for saving my life," Hargesheimer told The Associated Press in a 2008 interview. "How could I ever repay it?"

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