Sandy Allen dies

Dateline: Wed 13 Aug 2008

Sandy Allen of Shelbyville, who had more than her share of burdens to bear as "the world's tallest woman," (7 feet, 7 1/2 inches), died last night in a nursing home in Shelbyville.

Allen was great good friends with former Star arts and entertainment reporter Rita Rose, who sent out the notice of her death at 3:15 a.m. this morning.

Ms. Allen was a normal-sized baby, 6 1/2 lbs., when she was born in 1955, but a tumor on her pituitary gland almost immediately caused a growth spurt. She was 6 feet 3 inches tall by the age of 10, according to today's Star, which quotes the Guinness Book of World Records.

Rather than retire from the world, Ms. Allen allowed herself to be challenged by it. It was she who wrote the Guinness Book in 1974, expressing her hope of meeting someone her own size.

The great Italian movie director Federico Fellini, who often used fantasy in his films, invited Ms. Allen to appear in a film in 1975. That same year, says the Star, she also had a date with a man 7 feet tall who lived in Illinois.

But health problems plagued her. She had the tumor on her pituitary removed in 1977. As a personal aside, my husband Guy was then a social worker at Indiana University Medical Center. He recalled meeting her and said she was a pleasant, gracious patient -- no doubt, not an easy assignment.

Circulatory problems and weakened leg muscles eventually confined her to a wheelchair.

Rita Rose, her friend for 30 years, now retired from the Star, was inspired to write a fictionalized account of Ms. Allen's high school years.

Says Rose:

"My book, 'World's Tallest Woman: The Giantess of Shelbyville High,' will be published by Hawthorne Publishing in November. It's a fiction-based-on-fact account of Sandy's struggles in high school aimed at middle school and young adult readers. My publisher calls it 'creative non-fiction.'

Also from Rose:

"Memorial contributions can be made to the Sandy Allen Scholarship Fund at the Blue River Community Foundation,?54 W. Broadway, Shelbyville, IN 46176. Make checks payable to the foundation with "Sandy Allen Scholarship Fund" in the memo line. The scholarship?will benefit Shelbyville Senior High School."

Rest in peace, Sandy Allen. A big heart for a big woman.

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