Derby History Quiz

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Derby's Carnegie Heroes

Thomas F. McEvoy

Ferenc A. Szeitl

Adriene L. Jordan

Andrew Carnegie's financial donation helped to build the Derby Neck Library, but that is not his only connection to the city. Though he loved libraries, he also had a high level of respect for people who performed extraordinary acts of heroism and felt that they needed to be recognized for what they did. Following a tragic mining accident in Pennsylvania, he donated $5,000,000 to recognize "civilization's heroes." The award is now 100 years old, and the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission continues to award The Carnegie Medal and grants for "A civilian who knowingly risks his or her own life to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the life of another person."

All three of the individuals listed above won the award for acts of heroism in Derby. Thomas F. McEvoy became the first for saving the lives of Nicholas Pawlyk, Mildred McCoy and Elizabeth Conaty who fell through ice while skating on Pickett's Pond on a frigid January day in 1939. McEvoy was organizing a hockey game nearby on the pond, and he tried to reach Conaty with a hockey stick, but the ice broke beneath him.  John Mester, who was supervising the WPA recreational project on the Pond, pushed a log to the edge of the ice where McEvoy was holding up a distressed McCoy. As soon as McCoy was pulled to safety, McEvoy waved off attempts to pull him out and swam over to assist Conaty who was then pulled to safety. Pawlyk and McEvoy were then pulled from the icy waters. Fortunately, everyone survived what could have been a serious tragedy.

Divers pull body of Ferenc Szeitl from the water. (Photo from Evening Sentinel)

Ferenc A. Szeitl, a Derby Public Works employee who lived on Water Street, was not so fortunate in June of 1981 when he lost his life while saving brothers Vincent Turnbull and Jerome Callaway from drowning in the lagoon along O'Sullivan's Island. The boys had been fishing when they decided to go for a swim. Vincent, who could not swim, was swept into deep water by the current, and Jerome tired to save him. When he spotted the two in serious trouble in deep water; Szeitl, who was fishing nearby, dove fully clothed into the water and pushed the boys to shallow water and safety. However, he drowned during the course of the rescue.

Row houses on fire in 1991.  (Photo from Evening Sentinel)

Adriene L. Jordan also gave her life in an attempt to rescue Alicia and Justin Jordan from a terrible fire on Caroline street on August 12, 1991. When fire broke out in the basement, Mrs. Jordan and two of her five children made it out safely.  She went back into the building trying to rescue Alicia, Justin and 16 month old Jeremy Jordan. Jeremy was on the third floor and was rescued by a neighbor. Unfortunately, Adrienne, Alicia and Justin perished in a second floor bedroom.

Though not a Derby resident, Stanley Seccombe of Ansonia, also received a Carneigie Medal for saving E. Ralph Alexander from drowning in the Housatonic River in Derby. The successful rescue took place on August 7, 1910. According to an account in the Evening Sentinel, Alexander had lost his eyeglasses earlier in the day and accidentally walked off the landing next to a cottage he was visiting. Seccombe who was also visiting heard the splash and jumped into the water. Seccombe was said to be a good swimmer, but both he and Alexander might have perished had not Elizabeth Simmons reached them with a boat; and Seccombe, who was holding Alexander afloat, was able to grasp the side of the boat and scramble aboard.

Correct answers were received from: Randy Ritter, Millie from Ansonia, Rick Dunne, Eileen Krugel, Kimberley Shelton, Howard Bradshaw, Michael J. Flora, Ken Dupke, and John Rak.

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