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21 Heroes Honored by Carnegie Hero Fund

September 18, 1987

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Clifford Chaffee has been called a hero, but he says his greatest joy is knowing that his quick action saved the life of 5-year-old Michael J. Earles.

″That, to me, is just everything,″ Chaffee said. ″I don’t know if I’m a hero.″

Chaffee, 72, of Long Beach, Calif., rescued the boy from his burning house on May 23, 1986, to earn a place among 20 Americans and one Canadian honored for heroism Thursday by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.

Three of the 21 heroes died. The latest heroes are among 7,145 honored by the commission since it was founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1904.

Each hero or survivor receives $2,500 and a medal.

Chaffee, a retired Navy chief petty officer, was called from his home after a fire broke out in the Earles’ home next door.

″His brother was frantic, and he said, ‘My brother’s in the house burning up.’ I just ran over there and opened the door and billows of black smoke came out,″ Chaffee said Thursday.

″I went down on all fours and went in. I figured I got into the middle of the house. That’s when I luckily ran into him. I pulled him down and we crawled back out. I only figured I could stay in there for a few seconds,″ Chaffee said.

Chaffee would not call himself a hero.

″As I told the fireman that was there, I did just what I thought everyone else would do, and he said, ’Not true,‴ Chaffee said.

Others honored are:

- Gerald K. Yanaba, 34, of Berkeley, Calif., who died trying to save a woman from drowning while fishing in the Pacific Ocean on Nov. 22, 1986. She also died.

- B. Michael Thompson, 18, of Sydney, Nova Scotia, who died trying to save three men from drowning in the Atlantic Ocean at Kennington Cove on Aug. 21, 1986. The three men were saved by others.

- Robert E. Dean, 30, of Forestville, N.Y., who died saving a 9-year-old boy from drowning in the Pacific Ocean at Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., on March 11.

- Mark E. Jones, 27, and his brother, Martin, 22, both of Bel Air, Md., who saved a 15-year-old boy from a burning car after a traffic accident in Bradshaw, Md., on Dec. 10, 1986. Both men were injured.

- Teresa Rossiter, 26, of Massillon, Ohio, who saved a 96-year-old woman from a burning house on April 21.

- Ronald L. Sancho, 20, of Avondale, La., who saved a truck driver from suffocating from hydrochloric acid fumes following a traffic accident in Baton Rouge, La., on April 11, 1986. Sancho was injured.

- Lewis E. Kerst III, 31, of Imperial Beach, Calif., who saved two children from a burning house in Livermore, Calif., on Oct. 25, 1986.

- Thomas D. Finn, 30, of Birmingham, Ala., who saved a 16-year-old boy from drowning in the Caney Fork River at Rock Island, Tenn., on May 3. Finn was injured.

- Michael Bell, 39, of Salem, Ore., who saved a 3-year-old girl from a burning house in Portland, Ore., on Feb. 3. Bell was injured.

- Parker K. Wiemers, 18, of Marfa, Texas, who saved an 82-year-old man from being struck by a runaway airplane on Dec. 22, 1984.

- Lloyd Adams, 74, of Elmira, N.Y., who saved a 38-year-old man from a burning house on Aug. 29, 1986. Adams was injured.

- Gregory L. Gadsby, 49, of Foster City, Calif., who saved a woman from an assault in San Francisco on June 6. Gadsby was injured.

- Phillip E. Bass, 26, of Chattahoochee, Fla., who saved a 2-year-old from a runaway automobile on March 23. Bass was injured.

- James R. Barkley, 26, of Texarkana, Texas, who saved a woman from an assault on Jan. 21. Barkley was injured.

- Joseph C. Pavlik, 42, of Coupland, Texas, who helped save two women from drowning in Mustang Creek at Taylor, Texas, on May 29. Pavlik was injured.

- William Collins Jr., 35, of El Cajon, Calif, who saved a woman from a burning condominium in San Diego on May 2, 1986. Collins was injured.

- Columbus White Jr., 53, of Santa Clara, Calif., who saved a man from his burning truck after a traffic accident on Sept. 10, 1986.

- Albert B. Williams, 77, of Mount Prospect, Ill., who saved a woman from an assault in Rolling Meadows, Ill., on Dec. 17. Williams was injured.

- Mary Crowley, 14, of Flagler Beach, Fla., who saved three women from drowning on Sept. 15, 1986.