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America's Tallest Person Dead at 38

Igor Vovkovinskiy was a shade above 7-foot-8
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 23, 2021 10:45 AM CDT
America's Tallest Person Dead at 38
A screenshot of Igor Vovkovinskiy from an interview with "60 Minutes Australia."   (YouTube)

(Newser) – Igor Vovkovinskiy, the tallest man in the United States, has died in Minnesota at the age of 38. His family said the Ukrainian-born Vovkovinskiy died of heart disease on Friday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, per the AP. Vovkovinskiy came to the Mayo Clinic in 1989 as a child seeking treatment: A tumor pressing against his pituitary gland caused it to secrete abnormal levels of growth hormone. He grew to become the tallest man in the US at 7 feet, 8.33 inches and ended up staying in Rochester. His older brother, Oleh Ladan of Brooklyn Park, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that Vovkovinskiy was a celebrity when he arrived from Ukraine because of his size and the flickering Cold War of the late 1980s. But Ladan said Vovkovinskiy "would have rather lived a normal life than be known."

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Vovkovinskiy appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and was called out by President Barack Obama during a campaign rally in 2009, when the president noticed him near the stage wearing a T-shirt that read "World's Biggest Obama Supporter." In 2013, Vovkovinskiy carried the Ukrainian contestant in the Eurovision Song Contest onto the stage to perform. When he was 27, Vovkovinskiy traveled to New York City and was declared America's tallest living person by a Guinness World Records adjudicator on Oz's show. He edged out a sheriff's deputy in Virginia by one-third of an inch. He issued a plea in 2012 to cover the estimated $16,000 cost for specially made shoes that wouldn't cause him crippling pain. At the time, he said he hadn't owned a pair for years that fit his size 26, 10E feet. Thousands of people donated more than double what he needed. Reebok provided the custom shoes for free.

(Read more obituary stories.)

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