Edmund Percival Hillary, New Zealand mountaineer and philanthropist, Died at 88

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Dead, Sir Edmund Percival Hillary on the 11th of January 2008 at the age of 88, he was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist.

Born to Percival Augustus Hillary and Gertrude Hillary (née Clark) in Auckland, Dominion of New Zealand, on 20 July 1919, his family moved to Tuakau (south of Auckland) in 1920, after his father (who served at Gallipoli in the 15th North Auckland) was allocated land there.

He finished primary school two years early and at high school achieved average marks.

He was initially smaller than his peers there and very shy so he took refuge in his books and daydreams of a life filled with adventure.

His daily train journey to and from high school was over two hours each way, during which he regularly used the time to read.

He gained confidence after he learned to box. At 16 his interest in climbing was sparked during a school trip to Mount Ruapehu.

Though gangling at 6 ft 5 in (195 cm) and uncoordinated, he found that he was physically strong and had greater endurance than many of his tramping companions.

He studied mathematics and science at the Auckland University College, and in 1939 completed his first major climb, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier, near Aoraki/Mount Cook in the Southern Alps.

With his brother Rex, Hillary became a beekeeper, a summer occupation that allowed him to pursue climbing in the winter.
Hillary became interested in mountaineering while in secondary school, making his first major climb in 1939, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier.

He served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a navigator during World War II.

Prior to the 1953 Everest expedition, Hillary had been part of the British reconnaissance expedition to the mountain in 1951, as well as an unsuccessful attempt to climb Cho Oyu in 1952. As part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition he reached the South Pole overland in 1958.

He subsequently reached the North Pole, making him the first person to reach both poles and summit Everest.

In 1968, he traversed the wild rivers of Nepal on a jet boat.

He did the same up the Ganges, from its mouth to its source in the Himalayas, in 1977. In 1985, Hillary and astronaut Neil Armstrong flew a small twin-engine plane to the North Pole, making Hillary the first person to stand at both poles and the summit of Everest, which was known as the Third Pole.

Devoted to helping the Sherpa people, Hillary founded the Himalayan Trust, which built schools, hospitals and transportation hubs in Nepal. Hillary wrote that he was proud that he and his team just didn’t go in and tell the Nepalese what they needed: “We always responded to the wishes of the local people.

He served as New Zealand’s high commissioner to Nepal, as well as India and Bangladesh, from 1985 to 1988, and was made an honorary citizen of Nepal in 2003, on the 50th anniversary of reaching the summit.

Hillary married Louise Mary Rose on 3 September 1953, soon after the ascent of Everest. A shy man, he relied on his future mother-in-law to propose on his behalf.

They had three children: Peter (born 1954), Sarah (born 1955) and Belinda (1959–1975).

In 1975 while en route to join Hillary in the village of Phaphlu, where he was helping to build a hospital, Louise and Belinda were killed in a plane crash near Kathmandu airport shortly after take-off.

In 1989 he married June Mulgrew, the widow of his close friend Peter Mulgrew, who died having replaced Hillary as speaker on Air New Zealand Flight 901, a sightseeing flight to the Antarctic which crashed into Mount Erebus in 1979.

 

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