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rest in peace

Igor Vovkovinskiy, the tallest man in the U.S., dies at 38

Igor Vovkovinskiy, who in 2010 was named the tallest living man in the United States by Guinness World Records, died of heart disease Friday in Rochester, Minnesota. He was 38.

His death was confirmed by his mother, Svetlana Vovkovinska. Vovkovinskiy stood 7 feet, 8 inches tall, and gained worldwide attention in 2009, when he was photographed at an event for former President Barack Obama wearing a shirt that read, "World's Biggest Obama Supporter." 

The next year, Guinness World Records certified that he was the tallest man in the U.S. "Everyone is always asking me if I'm certain that I'm the tallest and I was never able to prove it," Vovkovinskiy said at the time. "Now that I have this certificate to hang on my wall, I can finally show it." He wore a size 26 shoe, and had to hold a fundraiser to get the $16,000 necessary to custom make sneakers so he could walk without pain; Reebok later donated the shoes to him.

Vovkovinskiy was born on Sept. 8, 1982, in Ukraine. As a young child, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that was pressing on his pituitary gland, which caused it to secrete extremely high levels of growth hormone, The Associated Press reports. He came to Rochester in 1989 for medical treatment at the Mayo Clinic, and his family settled in the city, with his mother becoming an intensive care unit nurse at the facility.