Daily Pilot columnist Jim de Boom, right, with his brother LeRoy in 2012 noting that "we are this close on eliminating Polio." (Jim de Boom / November 25, 2011)

I have written about my brother LeRoy periodically over the years in my Daily Pilot column. I am sorry to say he passed away at the age of 79 on March 12 from complications of polio, which he contracted in 1952.

LeRoy graduated from St. Louis Park High School in 1952 and had accepted a full scholarship to Harvard University but was made a quadriplegic by polio in August of that year. He was paralyzed from the neck down and spent 22 months in an iron lung at General Hospital-Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis. He had been on a respirator since then.

He was cared for by our parents, Verna and Henry de Boom, until they passed away (1996 and 2000, respectively). He continued to live in the family home in St. Louis Park with the help of personal care aides until 2006, when he moved to the Benedictine Health Center in Minneapolis.

With the help of Mom and Dad, LeRoy attended the University of Minnesota, where he earned an associate degree in accounting and set up a small accounting and tax practice in the family home.

LeRoy had gone through so much and lived much longer and led a fuller life than thought possible. He was strong, lived with spirit and tenacity and was an inspiration to many.

Polio has long been gone from the United States with the development of the Salk vaccine in the late 1950s. But it has been crippling youths and adults around the world, to the point where Rotary Clubs joined together to raise more than $1 billion to provide polio vaccines to hundreds of millions of children in Third World countries through mass immunization days.

LeRoy was enthused by Rotary's efforts. There are still three or four countries where polio is paralyzing youths and the vaccine is still needed. You can make a difference with a donation to Rotary International's polio eradication program at http://www.endpolio.org.

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Socks for Heroes

Members of the Harbor Mesa Lions were touched by the speaker they hosted at a recent meeting.

President Cathy Waters stated, "We all had lumps in our throats when we heard the story of how a father and mother of a young Marine who was killed in Afghanistan are supporting our troops."

Jim Hogan, father of Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan, who was killed saving the lives of his fellow Marines and honored with the Navy Cross, established the Socks for Heroes project in May 2011. Since that time, the group has shipped 196,000 pairs of socks to the troops serving in the war in Afghanistan. Clean socks are a prized and valued commodity, since there are no laundry facilities and no means to purchase socks.

If you are interested in donating to this worthy cause, checks can be sent to Socks for Heroes, SCMSCG, 2171 Via Teca, San Clemente, CA 92673. All donations are tax deductible (Tax ID 845-2846419). For further information, contact socks4heroes@hotmail.com.

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Teen speech contests

Harbor Mesa Lions are participating in the annual statewide Lions Student Speakers Contest for high school students.

The winner in the club contest was Forrest McFarland, a home-schooled junior from Fountain Valley. He went on to compete against another winner from the Huntington Beach Host Lions club and won the zone contest, which was held at the Newport-Mesa Unified School District facility.

He will compete again in the regional contest this week against winners of other zone contests from Tustin and Laguna Niguel. The final winner will have competed at various levels and in the state contest, winning more than $25,000 in scholarship money.

The theme of the speeches this year is "Community Service, what is it and why is it important?"

Harbor Mesa member Marianne Allen, who chairs the club contest, says, "The Lions are aware that teens today need to be involved in community service, and this theme is so appropriate for them. Each year, the theme is picked to enable teens to research current issues and understand them."