SHELBYVILLE, Ind. – The Shelbyville grave site of Sandy Allen is marked only by a few flowers. But friends hope a fundraiser will help cover the costs of a grave stone for Allen, the 7-foot-7 woman recognized as the world's tallest female until her death in August.
Family friends are organizing an Oct. 18 fundraiser featuring softball and cornhole tournaments and a community cookout.
Allen's friends also want to raise money for a proposed statue of Allen. But that idea has not yet been approved by the city of Shelbyville.
Friends remember Allen as a kind and generous woman who developed a sense of humor about her height.
"She embraced it," family friend Rita Rose said. "She used it as a tool to educate people."
Allen said a tumor caused her pituitary gland to produce too much growth hormone. She underwent an operation in 1977 to stop further growth.
She appeared on television shows and spoke to church and school groups to bring youngsters her message that it was all right to be different.
Allen weighed 6-1/2 pounds when she was born in June 1955. By the age of 10 she had grown to be 6-foot-3, and by age 16 she was 7-1.
She wrote to Guinness World Records in 1974, saying she would like to get to know someone her own height.
"It is needless to say my social life is practically nil and perhaps the publicity from your book may brighten my life," she wrote.
The recognition as the world's tallest woman helped Allen accept her height and become less shy, Rose said.
"It kind of brought her out of her shell," Rose said. "She got to the point where she could joke about it."
In the 1980s, she appeared for several years at the Guinness Museum of World Records in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
"I'll never forget the old Japanese man who couldn't speak English, so he decided to feel for himself if I was real," Allen recalled with a chuckle when she moved back to Indiana in 1987.
"At Guinness there were days when I felt like I was doing a freak show," she said. "When that feeling came too often, I knew I had to come back home."
Difficulty with mobility had forced Allen to curtail her public speaking in recent years, Rose said. She had suffered from diabetes and other ailments and used a wheelchair to get around.