A Pendleton man who saved the life of his employer was recognized as a hero in October of 1934 by the Carnegie Foundation.
Alfred J. Beard, 22, was working on the Wallula cutoff job site March 31, 1933, about eight miles east of Umatilla with the Newport Company, which had contracted to do surfacing work at the site. Beard was off-shift but had stayed to watch the blast of a quarry tunnel and heard that two men had been overcome by carbon monoxide following the blast. Marshall Newport, son of the company’s owner, had helped to retrieve the men but was then overcome himself. An article in the Oct. 27, 1934, East Oregonian said “young Newport, contracting superintendent, went into the tunnel to investigate. He had gone 70 feet and Beard, who was watching him, saw him sink down, overcome by the gas. In falling Newport struck his head on an iron rail.”
Beard leapt into action and entered the tunnel to pull Newport out. The superintendent outweighed him by 75 pounds, and Beard had to come out of the tunnel once for air before the rescue was complete. Beard also collapsed after bringing Newport out, and both men were taken to the hospital in Hermiston. Beard remained in the hospital for a month, and was then treated for a week by a Portland heart specialist.
He was awarded a bronze medal for his act of heroism, and the inspector for the Carnegie Foundation also said a cash award ranging from $50 to $1,000 was a possibility.
The son of Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Beard of Milton and son-in-law of County Judge C.S. Cheshire, Alfred Beard had attended McLoughlin High School and graduated from Enterprise in 1930.
The Carnegie Hero Fund was established in 1904 to recognize persons who perform extraordinary acts of heroism in civilian life in the United States and Canada. Established by Andrew Carnegie with a trust fund of $5 million, the fund has awarded 9,611 medals as of June 2013, including 148 to Oregonians. Other local awardees are Laurence S. Case, 16, of Heppner who attempted to save a drowning girl in the Columbia River near Brewster, Wash., in 1929 (both were drowned in the attempt); Leonard E. Swanson, 22, of Umatilla who helped save a 44-year-old man from drowning near Oxnard, Calif., in 1954 (both survived); Carlton Green, 40, of Milton-Freewater, who in 2007 saved a one-year-old boy from a burning building in Walla Walla (both survived); and Trevor Jordan Tally, 21, of La Grande who drowned in 2009 trying to save a 6-year-old boy and his 64-year-old grandmother who had fallen off a dock into Hells Canyon Reservoir in Idaho (the boy and his grandmother survived).