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Delhi woman posthumously awarded Carnegie Medal for civilian heroism

The Carnegie Hero Fund is recognizing 17 civilians who risked their lives for others. Each will receive the Carnegie Medal, North America’s highest honor for civilian heroism.

Among those awarded are five who lost their lives, and will receive the Carnegie Medal posthumously: Gwendolyn Theus a 64-year-old home health caretaker who chose to stay inside a burning house and attempt to assist her client to safety; and Kristoff Jaleel Murray, 27, D’Angelo Cordero Jenkins, 34, Terrell Miller, Sr., 33, and Matthew Ryan Kihlstrand, 45, who all died after entering rough water to rescue children and others in four separate incidents across the United States.

Gwendolyn Theus,deceased A 64-year-old caregiver died trying to save her charge – a 71-year-old paraplegic woman – after a fire broke out in the woman’s Delhi, Louisiana, home on Nov. 23, 2020. Gwendolyn Theus, also of Delhi, became aware of the fire and entered the woman’s bedroom on the opposite side of the house to alert her. Choosing to stay inside the home as the flames intensified and spread, Theus attempted to push the woman’s hospital bed through the bedroom doorway, but, when it did not fit, she dragged the women off the bed and pulled her toward a bedroom window, which she had partially opened. The woman slipped from Theus’ grasp and they both fell to the floor beneath the window. Firefighters responded and removed both women, who were by then unresponsive, through the bedroom window. The 71-year-old woman was revived and taken to a hospital. Theus could not be revived, and she died of smoke inhalation.

The Carnegie Medal is given throughout the U.S. and Canada to those who enter extreme danger while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. With this announcement, a total of 10,273 Carnegie Medals have been awarded since the Pittsburgh-based Fund’s inception in 1904. Commission Chair Mark Laskow said each of the awardees or their survivors will also receive a financial grant. Throughout the more than 117 years since the Fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, more than $43 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance.