Former Daily Herald executive named Carnegie Hero after saving children
A year to the day that former Daily Herald Media Group Vice President of Sales and Digital Strategies Pete Rosengren died saving children from a dangerous rip current while on vacation in Florida, he was posthumously named a Carnegie Hero Medal winner.
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announced late Monday that he was among the first 18 winners of 2022.
The commission awards medals four times a year to those "who risked their lives to save others. North America's highest honor for civilian heroism," according to the news release.
"From what I understand, someone saw Pete's story in the national news and nominated him as a hero," said Maura Rosengren, Pete's widow.
But it's a mystery who that was.
Maura said the nomination process was rigorous, with investigators from the commission researching the events around Pete's actions through interviews with her and others who were there the day Pete went into the water.
Maura said she drew diagrams of the beach for commission investigators and filled out numerous forms throughout the process.
"To be honest, this was an extremely emotional process for me and took a while for me to get all of the forms completed and sent back to them," she said. "I kept going back to it, starting and stopping, but it was just so very emotional."
The Rosengrens had made it to Florida a day earlier after driving from their home in Batavia. Along with three other families, Pete, Maura and their three sons had headed to Miramar Beach Sunday, March 28, 2021. While the beach was open, the water was considered off-limits because of a double red flag warning, the most severe designation for Florida's waters.
Maura said no one saw the warnings, and having grown up vacationing oceanside on the East Coast, she was accustomed to looking for them.
"It's really frustrating, and that's not even the word I want to put to it," she said. "After everything that had happened, one of our friends went looking for warnings at the beach and found a sandwich board thing at the parking lot. I don't know why they would put it there and not at the beach itself."
Of the 18 Carnegie Hero Medal winners named Monday, six were awarded posthumously.
That includes 21-year-old Layne Gravois of Louisiana and 55-year-old Kim McGrady of Georgia, who died in a massive rescue effort of distressed swimmers at the same beach less than two weeks later, according to the commission's website.
Maura said at the time that as soon as they arrived at the beach, some of the children ran straight to the water and were in trouble instantly.
While most of the children were able to get out, a friend's 9-year-old son was struggling and Pete went into the water to save him.
"The boy was carried away from shore into deep water," the Pittsburgh-based commission's website says of Pete's actions that day. "Rosengren swam to the boy, but they were separated by rough waves and Rosengren lost consciousness. Others, using safety equipment, ultimately rescued the boy and Rosengren, who was unresponsive."
The boy survived, but Pete did not. He was 42.
"This award comes as no surprise to those of us who knew Pete and worked with him these many years," said Daily Herald Media Group President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Stone. "First and foremost, Pete was a great dad, always talking about his boys and their friends in the neighborhood. Whether at work or home, Pete was the type of person you could count on to do the right thing."
Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said the commission had reached out to his office about scheduling an award ceremony for Maura and her sons, Gavin, Charlie and Grant, sometime in the coming months. No specific date has been set.
"It's wonderfully special," Maura said of the award. "The whole experience has been really bittersweet."
Drownings and water rescues were a large focus of this group of 18 award recipients, commission records show.
There were also nine children -- ranging in ages from 5 to 13 -- who were honored.
Winners and survivors receive $5,500.
Since its inception in 1904 by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the medal has been awarded 10,291 times to individuals in the United States and Canada who "enter extreme danger while saving or attempting to save the lives of others," the commission's website states.
Six people have received the award twice, for separate acts of heroism.
Nearly $44 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarships or assistance in the commission's 118-year history, officials said.