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The heart of the Heroes Center is the database of transportation heroes. Our definition of a Transportation Hero is all-encompassing; they maybe living or deceased; have a 'high profile name' or not be well-known at all. Their nomination may be due to one conspicuous act or it may be based on many years of loyal and caring service. Nominations for the Heroes Center are accepted year-round with no limit to the number of individuals who can be inducted each year. You can nominate heroes to any of these categories:
HEROES OF VALOR  |  HEROES BY EXAMPLE
HEROES OF INDUSTRY AND TECHNOLOGY
HEROES BY YEAR

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An incredibly conscientious driver, Richard “Dick” Saunders worked as a loyal employee of the Grinnell Newburg Community School District for more than 48 years.

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You know him as Mark Twain, but few are aware of the steamboat pilot who spent much of his time on the river.

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As transit manager for the Western Iowa Transit System, Feldman helps keep the people of Iowa connected by providing 250,000 rides each year for people in the rural areas of western Iowa.

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In 2002, Breedlove set a record by riding his bike from Los Angeles to Atlantic City, N.J. in nine days, 19 hours and 47 minutes. The record is one of many impressive feats in the life of a man who, having traveled the world pursuing his passion was most at home on the bike trails surrounding Des Moines.

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“This is our country and we’re going to see it,” Reed said. As an African American in the 1950s that was easier said than done, since racial prejudices led most hotel owners to refuse African American patrons. And so Reed opened the Sepia Motel in 1953 as one of the first hotels in the country that was open to people of all races and religions.

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Coordinating the transportation needs of rural Iowa isn’t an easy task, but Rose Lee accomplished exactly that. The program she pioneered, RIDES, transports 1,500 people spread out over 5,600 square miles every single day.

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Robert Groves spent most of his adult life doing one thing that was near and dear to his heart: ensuring that the children of Iowa made it to school and back safely.

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Not that many twenty-year-olds would have the audacity to start their own business. But that is exactly what Thomas Easton did when he co-founded and served as chief engineer for the Bee Aircraft Company in 1939, which produced low-cost airplanes.

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Thousands of residents throughout Cedar Rapids owe Robert Rathbun a debt of gratitude for making sure their buses ran on schedule.

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A transportation career spanning four decades took Davis from laborer to vice president.

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This Iowa native made his country proud in the U.S. Navy before returning home to keep roads clear for fellow Iowans.

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If you have a question about the Mississippi river, Dr. William Peterson is the man you want to ask. The noted writer and historian travelled more than 20,000 miles up and down the Mississippi river studying the relationship between the river and the people who live and work on its banks.

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Ann is an accomplished pilot, airplane builder and restorer, as well as an author. The life of Amelia Earhart is her passion.

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Eliot was well-known across the state of Iowa for unwavering dedication to train service, especially passenger trains.  He worked for over 25 years promoting passenger train service in Iowa with Rob Norton.

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Keith Miller served the North Mahaska Community School District, New Sharon, Iowa for 44 years. His route was 38 miles long and he stopped at farm homes picking up 50 plus kids every day.

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Floyd Pine piloted customers form southeast Iowa to cities throughout the United States t purchase automobiles and aircraft. Serving in both the Iowa Senate and the House he was instrumental in obtaining local, state and federal funding for building local airfields and hangers.

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Hazel has been up in the air since she was three months old. With her first husband, Glen, she turned building model airplanes as a hobby into Sig Manufacturing.

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Rhinehart Contractors, later known as Rhineharts Inc., beautified Iowa roadways with erosion control work on newly constructed highways for over 40 years. 

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After establishing his career and family it was time to make dreams a reality. After twenty-five years of antique car collecting and car activities Pat read a four sentence article in Old Cars newspaper about a company in London, England, which was organizing the premier auto event of the 2000 millennium year. This event was the Around the World in 80 Days Motor Challenge which was a competitive rally beginning in London, Engla More

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Communication technology plays a major role in the world of transportation today. Information and technology affect transportation directly and indirectly in an enormous number of ways. 

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Neta was a very early aviation pioneer. She became a flight instructor and eventually taught Amelia Earhat how to Fly. On January 3, 1921, she gave Earhart her first flying lesson. Neta owned and operated herown commercial airfield.

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Returning from World War I Jacob Stevens continued to make hisotry by working on the paving of the famous Lincoln Higway. It was during this time that rural areas began to improve thei road systes through support by the federal government.

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For Darrell Jeffrey trucking was his passion and the open road filled his days and nights . He made it his one and only line of work, his life’s profession.  DJ was his handle with only a few close driver friends knowing his full name. He drove for several companies in Iowa as well as owning his own rig for several years. 

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Dr. Thomas Maze was a professor of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at Iowa State University. He was the former Director for the Center for Transportation Research and Education at Iowa State University, now known as InTrans. 

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Ola Babcock Miller was one of the states most distinguished public servants. Today she is best known as “The Mother of the Iowa Highway Patrol.” Her consuming passion was to reduce deaths and improve safety on the state’s roads.

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Nellie Ruby was the only women in Iowa to hold an Authorized Inspector Certificate until 1996. Not one to let being a female stop her Nellie worked for her inspection/authorization mechanic’s license so she would not have to fly planes to another certified mechanic to inspect her work. 

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Ron Sieck took his first ride at age of 8 or 9 with a neighbor that took him flying over the Iowa countryside. As a teenager he hung around the Grinnell airport hoping for an offer to take to the air. Ron learned to fly in 1971. Although he enjoyed flying planes such as Cessna and Mooney his dream was to have a biplane. 
 

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Clint Swan – This will be read by John Holmes

When I think of a hero of aviation I can only see Clinton Swan deserving of this award, not me.  He sacrificed his resources, energy and most of all time, to impart to me the love of aviation.  He gave so that I could achieve my dreams. 

My work today is doing what I love; fly and teach.  Warm mem More

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William Paul Gearhart

Paul served as an Iowa State Trooper from 1943 to 1976. Trooper Gearhart began his career in Marengo with badge number 70 and was stationed there until 1951. Shortly after joining the Highway Patrol he was drafted into the US Army and served during World War II. Upon his honorable discharge Paul resumed his position as a trooper and his badge number was changed to n More

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Lowell Richardson of Ames, in 1951 began his 43 year career with the Iowa Highway Commission now known as the Iowa Department of Transportation. His first position was with the Creston Resident Construction Engineers Office doing construction inspection and surveying for bridges, grading and paving projects. Lowell advanced to Resident Construction Engineer at Creston from 1954 to 1960 and worked on many construction projects throughout the regio More

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In 1952 Willis Snook, a life time resident of Poweshiek County and a graduate of Montezuma High School, begin a career with what was known then as the Iowa Highway Commission.  At that time the only paved roads in the area were US Highway 6 and US Highway 63. There were a few sections of Highways 146, 21 and 85 that were paved, however many miles were still gravel.

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The late Kenneth L. “Pepper” Saunders started work at the early age of 9 and his first job was delivering the Des Moines Tribune and the Des Moines Sunday Register. At age 11 Pepper entered the trade of shoe shining and repair.

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Ray Allbee, Jr. ---- For Ray Allbee trucking is passion and the open road filled his days and nights. He made it his main line of work, his life’s profession. 

Ray has hauled billions of gallons of gasoline during his 40 year career, travelling over 3 million miles and all those miles were accident free. His work week was often six days a week, keeping fuel a More

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William “Porky” Den Hartog ---- William “Porky” Den Hartog of Eddyville began driving early in his teen years as an active member of the Eddyville Fire Department. He was a volunteer for the department for many years and was instrumental in getting the first rescue unit added to the fire department.

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In 1993, Michael J. Manatt oversaw the development of equipment that would revolutionize the highway construction industry.

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In 1921 seven of the top ten finishers at the Indianapolis 500 drove Duesenbergs, leading onlookers to remark “It’s a doozy!” The Iowa craftsmen built the finest automobiles of the era, leading everyone from Clark Gable to the Duke of Windsor clamoring to get their hands on a ‘doozy.’

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The sky is blue, grass is green and school buses are yellow, but it wasn’t always that way - for school buses, at least. In 1939 Grinnell resident Dr. Frank Cyr became the father of the yellow school bus when he convened a national council that declared yellow as the standard color for school buses.

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This engineer modernized traffic safety with state-of-the-art software that identifies and analyzes crashes that occur along Iowa’s roadways.

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In 1921 seven of the top ten finishers at the Indianapolis 500 drove Duesenbergs, leading onlookers to remark “It’s a doozy!” The Iowa craftsmen built the finest automobiles of the era, leading everyone from Clark Gable to the Duke of Windsor clamoring to get their hands on a ‘doozy.’

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The Civil War general from Council Bluffs left behind an impressive legacy. Dodge was a pivotal force in building the transcontinental railroad, the chief engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad and a savvy politician who represented Iowa as a republican congressman.

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Nicknamed the “Birdman of the Prairie” by his home town friends from Grinnell, Billy Cornelius Robinson began his career in aviation early in high school.  Billy built his first glider from scraps found at the Fix-It-Shop where he worked after school.  

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Born in Vermont in 1846, Henry Spaulding built his first buggy at the age of 19 in Chelsea, Vermont.  Hooking two buggies together, Henry set out to sell them.  This was the origin of what became known as the trailing system.

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At the age of 19, Jim, a Cedar Rapids, IA native, worked with a team of Honeywell engineers to design and package the Stabilization and Control System for the command capsule of NASA’s Apollo program (1965-1966).

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Lorenzo Coffin took on the American Railroad insdustry promoting safety issues the railroad companies ignored. His most notable work was designing the train car coupler

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Paul Crouse was a relentless worker for safety in the trucking industry as one of the developers of the No Passing Sign on the left side of the highways.A trucking industry pioneer and a founder of he Iowa Motor Truck Association, Crouse began his career in 1929 haulding eggs and butter to Sioux City. By 1982 Crouse Cartage Company had become the largest Iowa-based trucking company and also had the greatest number of Allied Van Lines brances in the nation. 

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Manatt's Inc. began in 1958 following successfull years as individual companies operated by brothers Junie, Carl and Merlin that dated back to 1947. Merlin worked hand in hand with his employees to develop methods still used today in their business to install sub-drain along state and county roads allowing road beds to drain better. One of those employees, Jack Gustafson who began working for the company in 1957, nominated Merlin as a Heroe of Industry and Technology More

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John Ruan—started Ruan Transportation Management System from nothing during the Great Depression. For a country that depends so heavily on trucks to keep its businesses moving, it is fitting that the trucking magnate moved his first load of gravel on July 4, 1932. His first truck was purchased with money gained from the sale of his family’s car. Within months, he had turned that More

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The Michigan-based company that makes regular overseas military deliveries held a “Support the Troops” donation drive and was overwhelmed at the response, said Cindy Goodboo, special project mail coordinator. Company employees donated time, sundries and money to make the drive successful. And to assist his team in supporting deployed service members, Conrad Kalitta, company owner, matched every dollar his em More

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In 1913 at the age of 23 Mr. Zelle recognized a business opportunity; organizing a company that would lease trucks to contractors who were constructing Minnesota highways and other local wholesale and manufacturing firms.  Once the company was doing well he and a partner started the Red Bus Line in 1918 to capitalize on Minnesotans'’ desire to increase their mobility. 

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Kenneth Bucklin received his B.S. degree in civil engineering from Iowa State University in 1962 and was a licensed Professional Engineer and Land Surveyor in Iowa until his retirement in 2004.  

Ken began his career as a member of a survey crew doing layout and construction staking for I-80 & I-35 from Des Moines to Newton. He went on to be involved in the I-80 project from Newton to the Highway 21 interchange east More

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Carl Sterling Bateswas born in Clear Lake, Iowa, in 1884. At age fourteen, he built and flew the first gilder to be flown in Iowa. This was accomplished by having the glider towed by a horse.

Bates is credited with having designed and flown gliders in 1899, and in 1906 he designed and perfected what was said to be the world’s first safe-type gasoline-powered airplane equipped w More

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Lyman G. Case, the son of Harry and Ethel Case, was born February 15, 1910 in Grinnell. He was a 1928 graduate of Grinnell High School and a 1932 graduate of the University of Iowa, where he lettered in football. He taught school and coached at State Center for a year.

In 1935, he applied for a position with More

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Ellen Churchof Cresco, Iowa became the nation’s first flight stewardess. While working as a registered nurse in San Francisco, Church was also learning to fly and became a licensed pilot. When she learned the Boeing Air Transport (BAT, the predecessor to United Airlines) was planning to hire men as attendants for passengers, and after they refused to hire her as a pilot, she worked with the head of the San Francisco office and convinced BAT mana More

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Ken Halsteadbegan driving for Halstead Trucking in the 1940''s and became the owner in 1950. The company was started by Leonard Halstead, his father. The business transported livestock locally and long distances. Straight trucks and semis were operated; with weekend runs to the Chicago Stockyards for Monday sales. The fleet included up to 8 or 9 International tractor/trailer semi units and 2 or 3 straight trucks.

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James J. Ryan II    Safety belts save lives, and no one knew that better than the legendary James “Crash” Ryan, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota from 1931 to 1963. Professor James J. Ryan II was a 1920 graduate of LeClaire High School, later attending Iowa State University and teaching at the University of Minnesota.
A national advocate for automotive More

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John A. Holmes

The first plane ride for John Holmes was in a 46 Aeronca Champ in the 60’s with his Uncle Clint Swan. There are warm memories of the excitement surrounding flights in the Champ with Uncle Clinton.  They would fly over the farms of all their relatives, waving, always creating an excited stir.  There, during those early years, the seeds of the lov More

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James “Jimmy” Whitmore Johnson began his career as an engineer for the Iowa Highway Commission as an inspector 1922. In 1924 he became assistant engineer for the engineering experiment station. In 1927 Jimmy was named assistant lab chief at the Iowa Highway Commission and lab chief in 1938.

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Thomas H. MacDonald

Thomas Harris “Chief” MacDonald was seen as an American civil engineer and politician who put forth tremendous influence in building the interstate highway system. He was born in 1881 in a Colorado log-cabin, followed by his families return to Poweshiek County when he was young. Growing up in Montezuma he attended public school and graduated high s More

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John “Jack” Tremain

The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroadsonce were prominent Class I railroads in the Midwestern United States, commonly known as the "Rock Island." In 1854 when the line connected just east of the Mississippi River area to Chicago and the East Coast, the event was marked by a large promo More

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Earl Johnsonof Newton took over as the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) / Airport Manager and renamed Smith Aviation to Johnson Aviation in October 1949. During his career in the airport fixed based operator business, drove change andgrowth in general aviation.  From landing at municipal grass strips to making instrument approaches in complex turbine powered aircraft to the same international airport years later, Earl's career in Aviation and in More

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Valere Lavent----Early in life Valere did whatever it took to get a ride in an airplane. At the very young age of 6 when a traveling barnstormer came to town, he talked his parents into letting him ride in a World War I “Jennie” at the price of a penny a pound. Daughter Debra Lavent shared in an email that her dad said he threw a tantrum and got his plane ride.

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Aviation experts still haven’t been able to explain how Hayne and Fitch were able to land a jet with no hydraulic pressure. But thanks to their heroics most of the passengers onboard flight 232 survived what should have been an un-survivable crash.

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As a young girl growing up in Beaconsfield Iowa, Dr. Peggy Whitson reached for the stars. As an adult, she visited them as commander of the International Space Station.

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Working for the Iowa Department of Transportation, Doug Heidke helped plow roads and keep up the highways across the state.

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Aviation experts still haven’t been able to explain how Hayne and Fitch were able to land a jet with no hydraulic pressure. But thanks to their heroics most of the passengers onboard flight 232 survived what should have been an un-survivable crash.

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One minute Daryl Putz was just an ordinary Iowan on his way to finish up some last minutes Christmas shopping. In the next, he was a Hero, having saved the life of a trucker trapped in the burning wreckage of an 18-wheeler.

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Capain Phillipsheroic action brought to center stage the major problem of piracy on the seas near Somalia and the need for countries to provide protection for the shipping industry. Phillips offered himself as a hostage in lieu ofhis crew. 

Captain Phillips spoke to officials of the Maersk Line, who quoted him as saying: “The real heroes are the Navy, the Seals, those who have brought me home.”

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LeRoy Wright saved the life of a fellow driver on May 18, 1988. In doing so he lost his own on a highway in California. 

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Four teenagers of Knoxville Community School were on a normal school bus ride on January 30, 2012 that turned into a life-saving role in a matter of minutes. 

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John Carteris a disaster preparedness consultant and a Reserve Officer for the Des Moines Police Department. 
On August 28, 2011 Carter was one of six officers who fought flames, glass and twisted metal to pull three young people from a burning SUV. 
A three-minute video from a patrol cars dashboard camera shows officers risking their lives as they responded to the crash, which threw the SUV onto its side at t More

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Paula Pitman, our final hero recognition of the day is someone you may know or have learned of as her unselfish actions represent her remarkable character. Her story is taken from a media story which can be found on the Grinnell Mutual website.

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