David Bruce: The Kindest People: Heroes and Good Samaritans (Volume 6) (Free PDF)

3. Charitable Comedians

Jimmy Durante and Eddie Cantor worked together in restaurants for a while. Mr. Durante was a piano player, while Mr. Cantor was a singing waiter. Often, they played requests from customers. If they didn’t know a song, they created one on the spot, then feigned innocence: “You mean there’s two ‘South Nebraska Blues’?” By the way, George Jessel had a lot of respect for his friend Eddie Cantor, who raised millions of dollars for charity: “He was the only guy who would come into a town and instead of saying, ‘Get the notices,’ would say, ‘What can I do to help in this town?’” Mr. Durante also worked hard at benefits for charity, as did Bob Hope, who once said, “My wife is so Catholic that we can’t get fire insurance—too many candles in our house.”

  1. “The Greatest Honor a Man Can Have is the Respect and Friendship of His Peers”

Jerry West played to win, and he won an NBA Championship in 1972; unfortunately, his Los Angeles Lakers lost numerous times in the finals, often to the Boston Celtics. After one loss in the finals, he drove his wife, Jane, home, dropped her off, and then drove away to be by himself. Jane explained, “Jerry doesn’t like anybody to see him cry.” The Celtics knew and respected Jerry. After winning yet another NBA Championship by defeating the Lakers, the Celtics went to the Lakers locker room to tell Jerry how much they respected him. Celtic John Havlicek even told Jerry, “I love you, Jerry.” Jerry was a team player just like Celtic Bill Russell, who won 10 NBA Championships in his 12 years of playing in the NBA. In 1971, Jerry was injured and on crutches. The Lakers honored him with a tribute night. Bill used his own money to travel cross-country so he could honor Jerry. Bill told him, “Jerry, the greatest honor a man can have is the respect and friendship of his peers. You have that more than any man I know. You are, in every sense of the word, a champion, and if I could have one wish granted, it would be that you would always be happy.” After retiring as a player, Jerry became General Manager of the Lakers and helped put together some NBA Championship-winning Laker teams.

  1. Do the Olympics Give Medals for Stopping a Five-Year-Old Girl’s Tears?

In May 2012 at the Life Centre swimming pool in Plymouth, England, a five-year-old girl named Ruby Davidson started crying because she was afraid of the deep water. Olympic-medal diving hopefuls Tom Daley, Tonia Couch (who first noticed the crying girl), and Brooke Graddon comforted her and gave her a private swimming lesson, despite being busy preparing for the 2012 London Olympics. Ruby’s mother, Claire Davidson, said, “The water is very deep, and it’s a very dark blue, and she’s only just started swimming.” The three Olympic-medal diving hopefuls were able to persuade Ruby not to be so frightened of the water. Ruby even jumped into the water from the side of the pool. Ms. Davidson said, “It was amazing. You would have thought someone like Tom Daley, who is a big star, wouldn’t have even noticed her, but to take quite a bit of time out from practicing for the Olympics and to reassure Ruby, and spend time with her, is fantastic. They were all really nice, and kind, and reassuring, and now my daughter is really looking forward to her next lesson. When you think of how busy they’ve been, to go and reassure a five-year-old in tears is a brilliant thing.” She added, “When we were in the car going back, Ruby said, ‘Mummy, I really love Tom Daley,’ and I said to her, ‘We all do.’ I really hope Tom, Brooke, and Tonia all win gold medals at the Olympics.”

  1. “It’s Very Poignant that He Gave Up His Life for Someone Else … That He was a Poor Swimmer Speaks to the Concern He had for These Little Girls”

On 2 April 2011 at Lake Okhissa in Franklin County, Mississippi, three girls—twins Stormy and Aaliyah Dunnaway, age nine, and Audrionna Lofton, age seven—were in danger of drowning. Michael Jackson of Bude, Mississippi, rescued Aaliyah. Bobby Joe O’Quinn III, also of Bude, rescued Stormy, although he was a poor swimmer. But Mr. O’Quinn drowned when he returned to the water and tried to rescue Audrionna, who also drowned. In June 2012, Mr. O’Quinn was awarded a posthumous Carnegie Medal for his heroism. Mr. O’Quinn was a Copiah-Lincoln Community College defensive lineman, and the Copiah-Lincoln Athletic Department now awards the Bobby O’Quinn Courage Award to a deserving Wolfpack football player at the college’s awards day, which is held each April. Wolfpack head coach Glenn Davis said, “Those kids have to be character kids and kids that other kids look up to or respond to. Those are the kind of guys we want to make sure will always receive that award.” Demechery Hickingbottom, who played with Mr. O’Quinn at Franklin County High School, was the first recipient of the Bobby O’Quinn Courage Award. He said, “I knew him as a person. He was always the one who helped me out during school. He’d help me with what I did wrong. It feels good to honor him.” Coach Grady McClusky, who used to coach Mr. O’Quinn at Franklin County High School, said, “He was a big personality, and he was always helping people less fortunate than him. Even on the football field, he was helping show guys how to do stuff. It didn’t surprise me when I heard he went into the water to save someone, because that’s what kind of person he was. If a house was burning down, he’d run in there to save someone, I’m pretty sure.” The Bobby O’Quinn Memorial Scholarship, an endowed scholarship, has also been set up in Mr. O’Quinn’s name. It goes to a Copiah-Lincoln first-year student in a career-technical or academic program. Spokesperson Natalie Davis said, “For such a young person to do such a selfless thing as that, it brings you down to reality and makes you realize what’s important in life. We were just proud to have him here. He’s set an example for humanity, in my opinion.” Mr. Davis said, “Here’s a guy who made the ultimate sacrifice for somebody else. As a team, we just kind of say, ‘Wow, a guy who was right here did something like that.’ So it’s something you keep mentioning and telling the kids about, like, ‘You think you have it tough? Here’s a guy that paid the ultimate price.’” Carnegie Hero Fund Foundation Executive Director Walter Rutkowski said, “In this particular case, it’s very poignant that he gave up his life for someone else. It’s a primary requirement that you have to risk your life to an extraordinary degree. The fact that our understanding is that he was a poor swimmer speaks to the concern he had for these little girls.” Mr. McClusky said, “He wasn’t a scared person. He’d put himself out there even if he got himself in trouble doing it. It doesn’t seem like he was scared of life too much. He just lived it and did what he had to do, just like he thought he had to go in that water, and he reacted and did it.” Mr. O’Quinn’s mother, Valeria, said, “Not a day goes by that he doesn’t cross my mind.” Mr. McClusky said, “I’m still just sorry for his mother; I know she’s still grieving. Bobby lived his life. It wasn’t long, but the years he was here, he really lived. A lot of people can’t say that.” Valeria said about the Carnegie Medal, “It makes me feel good inside. I feel like he would be proud. He always wanted to do his best at everything.”

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