Aug. 14, 2008 -- INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A woman who grew to be 7 feet, 7 inches talland was recognized as the world's tallest female died Wednesday, afriend said. She was 53.
Sandy Allen, who used her height to inspire schoolchildren toaccept those who are different, died at a nursing home in herhometown of Shelbyville, family friend Rita Rose said.
The cause of death was not yet known. Allen had beenhospitalized in recent months as she suffered from a recurringblood infection, along with diabetes, breathing troubles and kidneyfailure, Rose said.
In London, Guinness World Records spokesman Damian Fieldconfirmed Wednesday that Allen was still listed as the tallestwoman. Some Web sites cite a 7-foot-9 woman from China.
Coincidentally, Allen lived in the same nursing home, HeritageHouse Convalescent Center, as 115-year-old Edna Parker, whomGuinness has recognized as the world's oldest person since August2007.
Allen said a tumor caused her pituitary gland to produce toomuch growth hormone. She underwent an operation in 1977 to stopfurther growth.
But she was proud of her height, Rose said. "She embraced it,"she said. "She used it as a tool to educate people."
Allen appeared on television shows and spoke to church andschool groups to bring youngsters her message that it was all rightto be different.
After Allen was listed by Guinness as the world's tallest woman,she won a role in Federico Fellini's 1976 film "Casanova,"appearing as "Angelina the Giantess." She was featured in the1981 Canadian documentary "Being Different." She also appeared ina TV movie called "Side Show" in 1981.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said he met Allen twice.
"Then, and from a distance, I admired very much the way shehandled a uniquely difficult situation with uncomplaining grace,"he said.
Allen weighed 6-1/2 pounds when she was born in June 1955. Bythe age of 10 she had grown to be 6-foot-3, and by age 16 she was7-1.
She wrote to Guinness World Records in 1974, saying she wouldlike to get to know someone her own height.
"It is needless to say my social life is practically nil andperhaps the publicity from your book may brighten my life," shewrote.
The recognition as the world's tallest woman helped Allen accepther height and become less shy, Rose said.
"It kind of brought her out of her shell," Rose said. "Shegot to the point where she could joke about it."
In the 1980s, she appeared for several years at the GuinnessMuseum of World Records in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
"I'll never forget the old Japanese man who couldn't speakEnglish, so he decided to feel for himself if I was real," sherecalled with a chuckle when she moved back to Indiana in 1987.
"At Guinness there were days when I felt like I was doing afreak show," she said. "When that feeling came too often, I knewI had to come back home."
Difficulty with mobility had forced Allen to curtail her publicspeaking in recent years, Rose said. She had suffered from diabetesand other ailments and used a wheelchair to get around.
A scholarship fund has been set up in Allen's name through theBlue River Community Foundation, Rose said, with proceeds going toShelbyville High School.
"She loved talking to kids because they would ask more honestquestions," Rose said. "Adults would kind of stand back and stareand not know how to approach her."
On the Net: Blue River Community Foundation:http://blueriverfoundation.com/index.asp
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)