By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
Last week's announcement of the 2012 winners of the Carnegie Medal for Heroism stirred memories for a pair of Quincy residents who won the awards decades ago.
Lowell Kayser, who won his award in 1935 when he was 16 years old, and Jake Greving, who won his at age 13 in 1990, were both honored for saving people from drowning. Both men also used their awards to help pay for schooling.
Kayser, now a resident of the Good Samaritan Home in Quincy, was a poor swimmer and remained on the bank of a pond when a pair of his friends went swimming near Prairie du Rocher on June 4, 1935. L. Clyde Franklin and Lawrence Allard Jr. pushed a leaking boat away from the bank but soon lost their hold on the boat and began to flail in the water.
"I could swim, but I wasn't that good," Kayser said.
According to the Carnegie Hero Fund narrative, Kayser waded about 10 feet out and then swam about 30 feet to Franklin. He towed his friend to the boat, but Franklin did not grab it.
"I got him by the hair and got him to the bank," Kayser said. "And I was going to go out when he started back in the water. I had to fight him for a while to keep him there. He was scared to death."
Kayser swam back out and grabbed Allard but lost his grip, and his friend sank beneath the surface. Although Kayser circled to render aid, Allard did not reappear and drowned.
Kayser did not feel much like a hero until a couple of days later when Franklin's mother thanked him for saving her son.
The Carnegie Medal was brought to Kayser by a representative from the organization. More important to Kayser, they presented him with $500.
"Back in those days it went a long ways," he said. "I used that to go to trade school."
Kayser learned the work of a machinist in school. He went on to be a tool-and-die maker. Kayser, who was reared near Modoc, moved to the Quincy area after marrying a local woman. He got a job at Gardner Denver in Quincy and eventually became the general foreman for the north side of the factory.
In the March issue of imPulse, a periodic newsletter of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, Greving wrote about his own experience.
He told of walking along an island in the Mississippi River near Quincy when he heard an 8-year-old girl named Erin call for help. The girl had been wading in the water without a life preserver and the current pulled her off her feet.
"I immediately jumped in and swam to her," Greving said. "I told her to grab my neck, and I tried to swim back to the bank. The current was too strong and quickly moved us down the river."
A crowd that included Greving's parents gathered on the shore and could only watch as the pair were swept farther and farther away.
"By the grace of God we were spotted 1,200 feet from the bank and dragged onto a passing boat," Greving said.
The young hero was so exhausted that his father had to carry him to a lawn chair, where people who had seen the rescue thanked and congratulated him.
Years after winning his Carnegie Medal, Greving was a senior at the University of Kansas when he realized he wanted to become a teacher.
"I soon set my sights on graduate school at Quincy University. I also learned that graduate school at a private university can be quite costly," Greving wrote in imPulse.
He asked whether there were any scholarships available through the Carnegie Hero Fund and was sent an application that same day.
Greving got the scholarship and his graduate degree. He also met his future wife, Valerie, at QU. They were married in 2002 and now have three children. Greving teaches general and college preparatory English at Hannibal High School in Hannibal, Mo., and previously taught at Quincy Notre Dame High School and John Wood Community College.
The Carnegie Foundation also is covering costs as Greving pursues a master's degree in secondary administration.
"My actions on July 7, 1990, and the vision of the Hero Fund have shaped my life forever. I am truly blessed," Greving said.