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Norman Vaughan, dreamed big and dared to fail while scaling mountains; at 100

ANCHORAGE -- Norman Vaughan, who as a young man explored Antarctica with Admiral Richard Byrd in what was to become a life full of adventure, died yesterday, just a few days after turning 100.

Mr. Vaughan, native of Salem, Mass., died at Providence Alaska Medical Center surrounded by relatives and friends, said nursing supervisor Martha George.

Mr. Vaughan was well enough last week Saturday to enjoy a birthday celebration at the hospital attended by more than 100 friends and hospital workers. His birthday was Monday and he celebrated again, but grew increasingly tired as the week progressed, said friend Susan Ruddy.

Ruddy was at Mr. Vaughan's bedside when he died.

''Suddenly we realized he wasn't breathing," Ruddy said. ''It was just a completely easy departure and it seemed so wonderful to us that it happened on a lovely snowy day. He loved winter. He loved snow. It was almost as if he waited for a snowy day to make his last journey."

Mr. Vaughan's motto was ''Dream big and dare to fail." As a young man, he joined Byrd on his expedition to the South Pole from 1928-30 as a dog handler and driver.

Days before his 89th birthday he and his wife, Carolyn Muegge-Vaughan, returned to Antarctica and climbed to the summit of 10,320-foot Mount Vaughan, the mountain Byrd named in his honor.

''It was the climax of our dream," he told the Associated Press in an interview this year at his Anchorage home. ''We had to risk failure to get there. We dared to fail."

Mr. Vaughan continued to seek adventure his entire life. His exploits included finishing the 1,100 mile-Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race six times after age 70. At age 96, he carried the Olympic torch in Juneau, passing the flame from a wheelchair, 70 years after he competed in the Olympics as a sled dog racer.

He wanted to climb Mount Vaughan again to celebrate his 100th birthday but the expedition fell short of money. He planned to sip champagne at the summit -- the first taste of alcohol for the lifetime teetotaler.

''The only liquor I've ever had was the taste of wine at communion," he said. ''I told my mother I wouldn't drink until I was 100 and she said, 'That's all right.' "

Mr. Vaughan had a taste of champagne during his birthday celebration.

Mr. Vaughan was born Dec. 19, 1905, in Salem, Mass., the son of a wealthy leather tanner and shoe manufacturer. In his youth, he became fascinated by tales of early-century polar explorers and taught himself to mush dogs, beginning with the family pet.

In 1925, he entered Harvard College but soon left to be a dog musher in Newfoundland for a medical missionary. He left Harvard for good to join Byrd on his expedition, which included creation of the first settlement in Antarctica and the first air flight over the South Pole. Mr. Vaughan was part of a crew that drove dog teams 1,500 miles across the frozen continent to collect geological samples and other scientific data.

''We were the last to use dogs," he recalled in his book, ''With Byrd at the Bottom of the World," published in 1990. ''From then on, explorers would use planes and over-the-snow vehicles."

Mr. Vaughan kept driving dogs after he returned to New England, qualifying for an exhibition of the sport at the 1932 Winter Olympics.

At the outset of World War II, he was commissioned an officer in the Army Air Corps and assigned to a search-and-rescue unit based in Maine. His service included using a dog team to salvage a secret bombsight from the so-called Lost Squadron of US warplanes forced to land in Greenland in 1942. More than five decades later, Mr. Vaughan would return to Greenland as part of an expedition that found several of the planes buried hundreds of feet beneath the ice.

After serving in the Korean War, Mr. Vaughan started making frequent trips to Alaska, moving permanently to the state at age 67. He arrived in Anchorage nearly broke. His first job was shoveling snow from sidewalks to pay for room and board, and he followed that with a stint as a dishwasher.

Despite his accomplished past, he felt no embarrassment about his humble beginnings in Alaska.

''If you don't look for challenges, you become a follower," Mr. Vaughan said. ''Challenges are self-satisfying for a person, testing himself on whether he can do it or not, analyzing for himself his character. Many times it answers a great question for the person."

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