Tournament of Roses has no immediate plans to replace Zamperini as grand marshal
By André Coleman 07/10/2014
Tournament of Roses officials told the Pasadena Weekly on Monday that there were no immediate plans to replace Grand Marshal Louis Zamperini, who died last week at age 97 due to complications from pneumonia.
“Right now, the plan is to honor him on Jan. 1,” said Tournament of Roses spokesperson Andrea Fox. “We are still talking about how we are going to do that.”
Zamperini is the first grand marshal to die before participating in the parade, Fox said.
The former Torrance High School track standout scored the fastest time of any American in the 5,000-meter race in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, finishing eighth overall.
His performance at that event impressed Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who asked to meet Zamperini. Five years after meeting Hitler, Zamperini enlisted in the Air Force to fight against the fuhrer and his Imperial Japanese allies.
In April 1942, Zamperini was shot down over the Pacific and spent 47 days adrift, surviving on small fish and rain water before finally reaching the Marshall Islands and being captured by the Japanese Navy.
He remained a prisoner until the end of the war, enduring regular beatings at the hands of angry guards. He received a hero’s welcome when he returned home after the war. On his 81st birthday in 1998, Zamperini ran a leg in the Olympic Torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. While there, he attempted to meet with Mutushiro Watanabe, one of the guards who tormented him while a prisoner, but Watanabe refused to meet with him.
Zamperini’s life will soon be the subject of a film titled “Unbroken,” directed by Angelina Jolie.
“Louis Zamperini was and will continue to be the embodiment of the 2015 Tournament of Roses theme, ‘Inspiring Stories,’” Tournament of Roses President Richard L. Chinen in a statement. “As we mourn the passing of a member of the Tournament of Roses family, one who was moved to be asked to serve as grand marshal, we are honored to shine the light on one who truly lived a life of unconditional love, courageous perseverance and patient endurance.”