Heroes: none but the brave

From average Joes like Dennis Manuge to celebs like Kate Winslet
Actress Kate Winslet attends the "Carnage" premiere during the 68th Venice International Film Festival at Palazzo del Cinema on September 1, 2011 in Venice, Italy.

None but the brave



Dennis Manuge

The Canadian military veteran became a hero among his peers when he led a lawsuit against the government over cuts to veterans’ long-term disability insurance benefits. Manuge, who was injured at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in 2002, had $10,000 of his disability pension clawed back by the government after he left the military.

Terence Haight

Dubbed the “mystery millionaire,” the rural Ontarian made headlines posthumously when it was discovered that he left $1,035,948.55 to the small town of Gravenhurst in his will. According to the National Post, nobody is sure why he donated the money (some speculate it’s because his late wife was raised in Gravenhurst), but it is greatly appreciated—by the town’s mayor, especially.


Christian Lopez

When the 23-year-old New Yorker went to Yankee Stadium in July, all he hoped to do was see Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit. Lopez made history himself when, after Jeter sent the magic ball soaring, he caught it and returned it to Jeter, no questions asked. “Mr. Jeter deserved it,” he told ESPN. “I’m not gonna take it away from him.”

Wootton Bassett

The Queen gave the small English town an honour not bestowed since 1909: it is now named Royal Wootton Bassett because of the respect its townspeople showed in their collective decision to shut down storefronts and line the sidewalks to salute the return of 345 British troops killed abroad.

Victor Giesbrecht

In November, the 61-year-old Winnipeg resident stopped his car on a Wisconsin highway to help motorists change a tire. A few kilometres down the road, Giesbrecht, who was with his wife at the time, suffered a heart attack. Luckily, the motorists he had just assisted were right behind him. They saw something was wrong, pulled up beside his vehicle and performed CPR on him until paramedics arrived.

Paul Hines

In September, the 57-year-old was biking past an Aylmer, Que., IGA with his wife when he saw two teens steal a pumpkin worth $2.99. The retired Department of National Defence project manager gave chase, only to be beaten to death. Police have since charged a 19-year-old Pontiac, Que., man with manslaughter. Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk, speaking at his funeral, said Hines was an “extraordinary civil servant,” and a great leader who came from a family of Canadian Forces members.


Kate Winslet

The actress, often seen as a damsel in distress (think Titanic), underwent a role reversal in August, playing the real-life hero of a 90-year-old trapped in a burning building. When a tropical storm set English mogul Richard Branson’s Caribbean island home on fire, Winslet—who was one of his many house guests at the time—was quick to help carry his elderly mother out of the building. Branson thanked her publicly, on his blog.

Sean Penn

One week after a massive earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010, the Milk star was on a plane. His J/P Haitian Relief Organization runs two camps for 23,000 displaced people and has funded schools for at-risk Haitian youth. This year it got a $2.25-million grant from the World Bank to help more than 500 families. “This is where I’ll be when I’m not working, for the rest of my life,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in January.

Alex Trebek

There’s a reason the 71-year-old Jeopardy star hosted a National Geographic World Championship event in crutches, and it’s not old age. When an intruder broke into his San Francisco hotel room in July while he and his wife were asleep and allegedly stole, among other things, a family heirloom (a bracelet Trebek’s mother gave him 20 years ago), the Canadian game show host chased the thief down the hallway, and his Achilles tendon snapped. Unfortunately, the bracelet was not recovered.

Ryan Kwanten

When Australian actor and True Blood star Ryan Kwanten saw a man bleeding in the middle of a Hollywood street in April, he immediately got out of his car, moved the man to the sidewalk, called an ambulance and waited with him until paramedics arrived—all the while ignoring rude interruptions by curious passersby who recognized him from television. Sources say many people drove past the wounded man initially, and Kwanten was the only driver to stop.

Gil Meche

Kansas City Royals pitcher Gil Meche defied baseball’s norms in January. When an injury took him out of the game indefinitely, the 32-year-old decided to retire and forfeit the $12-million salary he was contractually entitled to. Why? Because he didn’t feel right about earning an enormous paycheque from the bench. “When I signed my contract,” he told the New York Times, “my main goal was to earn it.”