Sir Edmund Hillary, the unassuming beekeeper who conquered Mount Everest to win renown as one of the 20th century's greatest adventurers, has died, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Friday. He was 88.
The gangling New Zealander devoted much of his life to aiding the mountain people of Nepal and took his fame in stride, preferring to be called "Ed" and considering himself just an ordinary beekeeper.
"Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities. In reality, he was a colossus. He was an heroic figure who not only 'knocked off' Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity," Clark said in a statement.
As he and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay descended from the May 29 attempt on the mountain, Hillary told fellow climbers: "We knocked the bastard off."
He was one of the people I looked up to as a child and teenager. He was a man's man and accomplished one of the most remarkable feats ever achieved.
Rest in Peace, Sir Ed! You will not be forgotten.