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Lafayette-born Olympian may get name on highway

– A Lafayette native who overcame childhood trauma and illness to win 10 Olympic gold medals in the early 20th century could soon have part of a state highway named after him.

A resolution authored by state Sen. Brandt Hershman and passed last week by the Indiana Senate urges the Indiana Department of Transportation to rename a section of U.S. 231 the “Ray Ewry Memorial Highway.”

Ewry was orphaned when he was 5 years old and then stricken two years later with infantile paralysis and rheumatic fever, the Journal & Courier reported.

Doctors predicted he would spend his life in a wheelchair. But Ewry overcame the illness and went on to win 10 gold medals for standing high jump, standing broad jump and standing triple jump during Olympics from 1900 to 1908.

The resolution passed the Senate in the session’s final days and was not considered in the House.

But Hershman, R-Buck Creek, said he’s hopeful INDOT will be able to act with the approval of only one chamber of the General Assembly.

Ewry, who died in 1937, is now little-known for his accomplishments. A granite monument bearing his likeness and a description of his inspiring life story was dedicated in 2012 at Jefferson High School, thanks to the efforts of Buck Creek resident Dick Leill.

Leill said he would be thrilled if Ewry’s name could be placed on the new U.S. 231 from River Road to U.S. 52 West.

“He was just as outstanding an academic as he was an athlete,” Leill told the Journal & Courier. “He was the lead engineer on the aqueduct project that brought drinking water to New York City and is still used today.”

Hershman said he introduced the resolution after Leill contacted him and recounted Ewry’s story.

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