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Howard "Buck" McKeon: Honoring the life of a Olympian

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Posted: June 25, 2010 9:29 p.m.
Updated: June 26, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

I recently introduced legislation with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to honor Andrea Mead Lawrence, a two-time gold medal winner and dedicated public servant who spent her career working to protect our most valuable lands.

I am working to celebrate Lawrence’s accomplishments as an Olympian and honor her service as an advocate for conservation by naming a peak for her in the majestic Eastern Sierra. Lawrence had the true Olympic spirit and worked tirelessly to protect Mono Lake, Bodie State Historic Park and other important areas of the Eastern Sierra.

Having grown up in the ski area founded by her parents in Pico Peak, Vt., Lawrence was surrounded by skiing and nurtured an affinity for nature and the outdoors starting as a young child. She began skiing at age 3 and achieved great success in the sport by age 14, when she was named to the U.S. Olympic Ski Team.

Lawrence ultimately competed in the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway and the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy — reaching the peak of success at the 1952 games where she took home two gold medals in the Olympic special and giant slalom races. This was an incredible feat, and she remains the only United States double-gold medalist in alpine skiing. Lawrence is widely considered one of the most outstanding women in American sports history.

Lawrence capped her career with two momentous honors reserved for only the most respected and successful Olympians.
She was invited to light the grand torch at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif., and was named to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1958 at the age of 25 — achieving the highest level of national achievement. When it comes to skiing legends, Andrea Mead Lawrence stands prominently among the very best that America has ever produced.  

Lawrence herself once said, “Your life doesn’t stop by winning medals. It’s only the beginning. And if you have the true Olympic spirit, you have to put it back into the world in meaningful ways.”

Andrea certainly took her own advice to heart. After her Olympic career, she moved to Mammoth Lakes in 1967, where she began a career in public service fighting for conservation. Lawrence went on to serve for 16 years on the Mono County Board of Supervisors and on the Mono Lake Committee Board of Directors, where she worked to protect Mono Lake for generations to come.

In 2003, she founded the Andrea Lawrence Institute for Mountains and Rivers. The Institute set out to address challenges confronting the Eastern Sierra and work to “preserve healthy communities and healthy ecosystems, recognizing the inextricable connection that binds both.” 

Last year, Sen. Boxer and I moved the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act through the legislative process and into law, protecting some of the most rugged and majestic land in California and the country. I had the honor to work with Lawrence in support of this legislation as she worked for its passage by testifying before the Mono County Board.

Sadly, Lawrence passed away on May 31, 2009, just one day after the Eastern Sierra and San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act was signed into law. She left a rich legacy with a family of five children, four grandchildren, a distinguished record in skiing and very importantly, a better legacy for the people who live and recreate in the Eastern Sierra.

If passed into law, the memorial legislation we introduced on April 29 will name peak No. 12,240 — on the northern border of the Ansel Adams Wilderness and Yosemite National Park — after this great American and committed conservationist.

Lawrence’s daughter Quentin and I recently testified in Congress in support of this legislation to make Mt. Andrea Lawrence a visible point of inspiration for future generations, and we will work hard to see it through to passage and ultimately law.

For more information on the Andrea Lawrence memorial legislation, please visit www.mckeon.house.gov.
U.S. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon represents the 25th Congressional District, which includes Santa Clarita Valley. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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