Louis Zamperini & Me

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John Naber and Louis Zamperini

In 2011, I  had the pleasure of traveling with fellow Olympian and friend of almost 30-years, Louis Zamperini.  I have learned much from the 1936 Berlin Olympian and World War II Prisoner of War.  I was honored to pass the Olympic flame to his torch in 1984 and again in 2004.

I was also pleased to have arranged for Louis to meet privately with Billy Graham in June 2011, and in October 2011, for the first and only face-to-face meeting with Laura Hillenbrand, author of the New York Times bestseller “Unbroken.” 

On July 2, 2014, at the age of 97 years young, Louis passed away and he will be missed tremendously. 

Louis' dramatic life story (Olympian and World War II POW) has been told in varous books and in the December 2014 film "Unbroken" directed by Angelina Jolie.

The man depicted in these stores is defiant, resourceful and determined.  The man I knew since 1983 was so much more than that.

The Louis I knew was also quick-witted (as you can see from the photo), fun-loving, humble and extremely caring of other people.  He told me that he had worked at over 80 different jobs, ranging from movie studio extra to real estate developer.  He devoted his final three decades to sharing his faith and his philosophy of life with as many audiences as would invite him to speak.  He included the concepts of forgiveness, hardiness, preparation and a new life in Christ.  He loved his family and he prayed and read the Bible regularly.  And I never heard him say an angry or hurtful word about anyone.

Louis may have left us behind, but I am happy to remember his example as an inspiration for the way I'd like to live my life going forward.

John Naber

1976 Montreal Olympic Games

4 Gold, 1 Silver