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Heroes lauded for bravery, good works

By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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One carried a disabled, 89-year-old woman to safety out of a burning North Auburn home. Three others worked for hours to successfully talk a distraught Davis woman from jumping to her death off the 730-foot-high Foresthill Bridge near Auburn. On Tuesday, the four Placer County Sheriff’s Department heroes were among nine people who stepped up to receive commemorative coins to honor acts that went beyond the call of duty and changed lives. Supervisor Jim Holmes awarded Deputy Kenneth Skogen the medal-like coin in the annual ceremony during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. Holmes recounted how Skogen – a deputy who fellow peace officers have nicknamed “Thor” and “The Viking” for his strength – pried Elinor Braum’s hands from her walker as the fire moved in. He scooped her frail body up and carried her out of her house to safety. The home was one of 63 that burned to the ground in the Aug. 30 fire. Skogen transported Braum to hospital in a patrol car and then returned to the North Auburn fire site to check more houses. Holmes said that Skogen’s work continued even after he collapsed “for a minute” because of smoke. He worked until midnight and was back the next day for his next shift, he said. The American Red Cross has already recognized Skogen as one of its 2009 Hometown Heroes and his story has gained national attention, Holmes said. Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery awarded coins to Deputies Michael Bennett and Paul Long, and Sgt. Bill Walton. The three were able to work together to talk the woman from jumping in a September incident. The three were willing to put their safety aside and use their training, skills and empathy to coax the woman away from the ledge, Montgomery said. Other coin award winners are Dry Creek school trustee and fire board member Diane Howe, Roseville veteran Col. John Lathrop, Lincoln educator and library booster Shirley Russell, Lincoln architectural preservationist Richard Wyatt and canned-food drive organizer Jim Lane of Granite Bay. The coin awards have been given out since 2002 for acts of heroism, longstanding community service, or “exceptional acts that have dramatically improved people’s lives.” ------------------------------------- Fast facts: Other honorees District 2 honoree Shirley Russell is a long-time community activist with a special interest in public libraries in Lincoln.  When the Lincoln public library was about to close for lack of funding, she helped rally volunteers in a “Save Our Library” project, who succeeded in keeping it open. Among her many accomplishments she helped get a grant from the Bill Gates Foundation for computers and helped gain funding for the new Twelve Bridges Library in Lincoln.   Honoree Richard Wyatt, District 2, has been very active in historic preservation and restoration of old Lincoln.  Among his many restoration projects are the Lincoln Carnegie Public Library built in 1909, one of the few functioning Carnegie Libraries built between 1890 and 1917, now serving the city and the Western Placer Unified School District. Currently he provided architectural services to relocate the Lighthouse Counseling and Family Resource Center. He has also helped renovate many other historic buildings in Lincoln.   Diane Howe, who was honored in District 1, has been extremely involved in Dry Creek community activities for many years, including serving on the Dry Creek Fire Advisory Committee, the Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District Board of Trustees, and the West Placer Municipal Advisory Council.  Named the Placer County School Board Trustee of the Year in both 1995 and 2006, she also provides day care in her home and a weekend business at Denios.   District 1 honoree Col. John W. Lathrop, now serving in the California Army National Guard, Commanding Officer, 115th Regional Support Group, has also served his community and his country in a variety of other military settings.  He served 21 months on active duty in South Korean, and participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and served as Deputy Commanding Officer for the 40th Corps Support Group deployed to Balad, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He has received numerous military honors.   Jim Lane, a District 4 resident, has provided extensive leadership to the annual Eureka Union School District Canned Food Drive and Christmas Basket Program.  He has also provided support and leadership of a variety of other service programs.  The community efforts there typically generate several hundred boxes of canned food.  He is also a member of the Granite Bay Rotary, and received the Community Service Award for 2008.