Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Thursday, January 10, 2008
The Death of Sir Edmund Hillary
I had the very real pleasure of meeting Sir Edmund 4 years ago when he was in Washington to speak to the National Geographic Society marking the 60th anniversary of his ascent on Mt. Everest.

I had gotten tickets through a friend, but it was a relatively small hall, so it was quite intimate and he shook hands and answered questions long after the presentation was over.

He was really tall - I remember that, and I was also thinking how dashing he must have been in his early years. He had a full head of wavy grey hair, and a real twinkle in his eye.

What many people don't realize, is that Sir Edmund's humanitarian efforts far outweigh his accomplishments in conquering Mt. Everest.
"Besides writing and lecturing, he formed a foundation, the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust, that raised millions and built more than 30 schools, a dozen clinics, two hospitals, a couple of airfields, and numerous foot bridges, water pipelines and other facilities for the Sherpa villages in Nepal."
Before international aid agencies or geo-political struggles, he simply recognized a need for the people of Nepal, and did everything in his power to help them, and at great personal sacrifice. In 1975, his wife Louise and daughter Belinda were killed in an airplane crash on their way from Katmandu to help Sir Edmund build a school and clinic.

I found him to be genuine, kind, gracious, and self deprecating. Having your entire adult life be defined by a singular act must be very difficult. He did it well, and never promoted all of his other accomplishments loudly.

That's too bad, because I think I'll remember the humanitarian even more than the hero.
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:57 PM  
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