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As It Was: Gold Medal Winning Runner Becomes Early Aviator

Raised in Beaumont County, Calif., Fred Warren Kelly was described as very modest with a ready smile.  In high school, he earned many honors in track and field competition before graduating in 1911.

At the University of California, he qualified for the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, winning a gold medal in the 110-meter high hurdles.  USC Coach Dean Cromwell called him the “greatest athlete he’d ever coached.”

After the Olympics, Kelly ran against Jim Thorpe in France.  During the race, Kelly became distracted by an airplane flying overhead, the first one he had ever seen.  He lost the race, but decided he wanted to an aviator.  He did race Thorpe in other races and never lost again.

During WWI, Kelly entered the aviation section of the Army Signal Corps and learned to fly.  In 1925, he became one of the “Four Horsemen,” the first four pilots hired by Western Air Express.  In the Second World War, he trained pilots and ferried men and materials to Alaska.  

Kelly moved to the Applegate Valley, Ore., in 1964, and later lived at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs domiciliary in White City.

Sources: "Fred Kelly Aviation Pioneer and Olympic Medal Winner." The New York Times, 9 May 1974, www.nytimes.com/1974/.../fred-kelly-aviation-pioneer-and-olympic-medal-winner.html; Fattig, Paul. "Olympian's Adventure Brought Him to the Applegate." Mail Tribune, 29 July 2012 [Medford, OR] , https://mailtribune.com/opinion/columns/olympian-s-adventure-brought-him-to-the-applegate; "Frederick Warren "Fred" Kelly." Find a Grave, 3 June 2013, www.findagrave.com › ... › Glendale › Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale).

Luana (Loffer) Corbin graduated from Southern Oregon College, majoring in Elementary Education.  The summer after graduation she was hired to teach at Ruch Elementary, where she taught for 32 years. After retiring, Corbin worked for Lifetouch School Photography and then returned to Ruch as an aide helping with reading instruction and at the library.  More recently, she has volunteered at South Medford High.