Olympic hero Louis Zamperini dies at 97

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Tournament of Roses announced today it is
“committed to honoring” Louis Zamperini as grand marshal of the 2015 Rose
Parade, despite his death Wednesday.
Zamperini, a 1936 U.S. Olympic track and field team member who survived
repeated torture for two years as a Japanese prisoner of war during World War
II, died from pneumonia at age 97. A film about him, directed by Angelina
Jolie, is scheduled to be released on Christmas Day.
Zamperini had been selected in May to serve as grand marshal of the 2015
Rose Parade.
“We will remember and honor the courage and grace that made Louis who
he was, and hope that by sharing his life’s story, we can uphold the values
which built his strength, perseverance and his ability to forgive others,”
according to a Tournament of Roses statement. “Louis’ life serves as an
inspiration to us all, and we are committed to honoring him as the grand
marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade.”
Tournament of Roses President Richard L. Chinen said Zamperini continues
to represent the parade’s theme of “Inspiring Stories.”
“As we mourn the passing of a member of the Tournament of Roses family,
one who was moved to be asked to serve as grand marshal, we are honored to
shine the light on one who truly lived a life of unconditional love, courageous
perseverance and patient endurance,” Chinen said. “He shared with us that his
faith in God was his inspiration to be content in plenty and in want. At this
time, we pray that Louis’ family and friends may find strength knowing that the
story of Louis’ journey will inspire the world.”
Flags at the Tournament House in Pasadena were flown at half-staff today.
Zamperini’s family announced his death Wednesday through Universal
Pictures, which will release the film about his life, titled “Unbroken.”
“After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in
the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so
many lives. His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more
apparent than in these last days,” his family said.
Jolie called Zamperini’s death “a loss impossible to describe.”
“We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known
him,” she said.
Born in 1917 to Italian immigrants, Zamperini moved to Torrance in 1919
and became a world-class distance runner by the time he graduated from Torrance
High School, setting a world interscholastic record in the mile. His track
skills won him a scholarship to USC.
“Louis Zamperini was one of the greatest Trojans of all time, as well
as a true American hero,” USC athletic director Pat Haden said. “He was the
embodiment of the USC motto, `Fight On.’ All of us in the Trojan family have a
deep appreciation for what he did for USC and for our country, and we mourn the
passing of this American legend, this national treasure.”
At age 19, Zamperini qualified to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics,
finishing eighth in the 5,000 meters, finishing the final lap in 56 seconds and
causing Adolf Hitler to request a personal meeting with him.
During World War II, Zamperini became a bombardier and served in the
South Pacific.
While on a reconnaissance mission, Zamperini’s aircraft crashed into the
Pacific Ocean. He and a surviving crewmate spent 47 days adrift on an
inflatable raft before being captured by Japanese soldiers when they reached
the Marshall Islands.
He was a POW for more than two years, during which time he was
frequently beaten and tortured by his captors. He returned to Southern
California to a hero’s welcome.
Suffering from post traumatic disorder, Zamperini found solace in 1949
when he became a born-again Christian after attending a Los Angeles crusade led
by evangelist Billy Graham. He eventually became an inspirational speaker
preaching the power of forgiveness.
He practiced what he preached in 1950, when he went to Sugamo Prison in
Tokyo, where Japanese war criminals were being held, and met with some of his
torturers to offer them forgiveness.
At age 81, Zamperini — a five-time Olympic torch-bearer — ran a leg in
the torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Nagano. During his visit, he
attempted to meet with his most brutal wartime tormentor, Mutsuhiro Watanabe,
but Watanabe, who escaped prosecution as a war criminal, refused to see him.
In 2005, Zamperini returned to Germany to visit the Berlin Olympic
Stadium for the first time since he competed there in 1936.
Zamperini has been inducted into the Italian-American Sports Hall of
Fame. Torrance High School’s football, soccer and track stadium is named after
him.
Laura Hillenbrand, author of the book “Unbroken: A World War II Story
of Survival, Resilience and Redemption,” on which the film about Zamperini is
based, called him her “surrogate grandfather” and a beloved friend.
“To know him, to be in the presence of his radiant optimism, his
sparkling wit and the love in which he lavished everyone around him, was a
privilege and a pleasure and an indescribable joy,” Hillenbrand wrote on her
Facebook page. “In a life of almost unimaginable drama, he experienced supreme
triumphs, bus also brutal hardship, incomprehensible suffering and the cruelty
of his fellow man.”

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Olympic runner Louis Zamperini dies at 97
Article Name
Olympic runner Louis Zamperini dies at 97
Description
The Tournament of Roses announced today it is ``committed to honoring'' Louis Zamperini as grand marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade, despite his death Wednesday.
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  • john mac kenzie

    I have never before heard such an amazing story. Jesse Owens famous Olympian roomed with this man in Berlin.Why has not Jesse ever spoke about this amazing man. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the Zamperini Family. God Bless You, Mr Zamperini.