Mildred Lothrop was the first Vail Gold Medal
winner. She went on to become the Bell System's only two-time Gold Medal winner.
Mrs. Lothrop, Northwestern Bell chief operator, lived with her five sons in the one-story building which housed the central office in Homer, Nebraska. She was awakened early in the morning of May 31, 1920, by a signal at the switchboard. A subscriber, who lived about five miles up the valley above Homer, said there had been a cloudburst and the whole valley was a sheet of water.
Millie immediately called the fire chief and began calling other subscribers, impressing upon them the danger. She sent her youngest son out into the water to ring the fire bell, knowing that many would call the central office to find out why the bell was ringing.
Although the mayor and her remaining sons urged her to abandon her switchboard, she would not leave until the water rose so high the board would no longer function. As she left, the water was up to her shoulders and the current was very swift. She was unsure of the location of four of her sons, but when morning came, they were all found alive and unharmed.
20 years later,
almost to the day, another flood threatened Homer in the early morning hours of June 4, 1940. Once again, Millie Lothrop remained at her switchboard, warning inhabitants and directing the work of rescuing those she knew to be trapped by rising water.
Residents of the community, remembering her courage and resourcefulness during the previous flood, called on her for help and depended on her to contact and help rescue those in danger. The rushing waters nearly reached the second floor of the building where the switchboard was located, but she stayed at the board for the many hours it took until the flood receded. The community credited the saving of many lives to Millie's resourcefulness and courage.
Twice, she had risked her life to save others. According to James C. Rippey, in Goodbye Central, Hello World
, Millie admitted to being frightened, "But at times like that, you just don't think about yourself."
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