Igor Vovkovinskiy, a longtime resident of Rochester known for his status as the tallest person in America, has died at the age of 38.
According to a Facebook post from his mother, Svetlana Vovkovinska, Igor died from heart disease at 10:17 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20, at a hospital in Rochester.
A native of Ukraine, Vovkovinskiy came to Rochester as a 7-year-old child for medical treatment. Eventually becoming known as the tallest man in America, Vovkovinskiy stood at an outstanding 7 feet, 8 inches.
In 2018, he was featured on the TV show "60 Minutes Australia" in a segment called "Meet the tallest man in the world." According to the program, Vovkovinskiy's size was caused by a tumor pressing against his pituitary gland, which caused it to continually release excess growth hormones.
His physician, Dr. Gregory Garrison of Mayo Clinic, described the extent of Vovkovinskiy's condition for "60 Minutes."
"Unfortunately, it's in a location that makes it impossible to completely eliminate the tumor," Garrison said. "It's unlikely that he'll ever stop growing. We're using medications to try to slow the effects of that growth hormone down."
Vovkovinskiy was born Sept. 18, 1982, in Bar, Ukraine, according to his obituary from Ranfranz & Vine Funeral Homes. After moving to the United States, he graduated from John Marshall High School, and later Rochester Community and Technical College.
His obituary said "he enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, occasional fishing and travelling, and helping the Ukrainian Army in any way he could."
Throughout his life, Vovkovinskiy had some unique opportunities. According to IMDb, he was featured in the movie "Hall Pass" in 2011, "The Dr. Oz Show" in 2009, and the documentary "Inside Extraordinary Humans: The Science of Gigantism" in 2007.
In 2013, Vovkovinskiy made a brief appearance in the Eurovision Song Contest. He dramatically carried the Ukrainian contestant, Zlata Ognevich, onto the stage, while outfitted in a lavish costume. During an interview for Eurovision, Vovkovinskiy said his goal was to live in Los Angeles as an actor.
During that same interview, he briefly described his relationship with his mother.
"The person with the biggest influence on me is definitely my mom," Vovkovinskiy said. "Along the road, she's been my inspiration to do well in college, and to try new and exciting things in life."
For all the exposure he received, he also had unique challenges due to his size, such as finding shoes that would fit.
In 2012, Vovkovinskiy received several pairs of custom-made shoes from Reebok. At the time, his shoe size was 24, 10E, which meant his options were incredibly limited. He said it was the first time in his life he ever had more than one pair of shoes.
Rochester Magazine featured Vovkovinskiy in 2016. The interview covered many aspects of his life, such as his appearance in a movie, his love for his home country, and his guilty-pleasure song.
At the end, he responded to the simple question "What have you learned?"
"People take everything for granted," Vovkovinskiy said. "Even simple things. I can’t go anywhere with my friends in their car. I can hardly go to anyone’s house because I’m afraid I’ll break their furniture. Their ceilings are low. Their doorways are low. The pain I have is pretty much 24 hours a day. Sometimes it’s so bad I can’t do anything useful. I try to think about something else. Read a book. Skype with my friends from Ukraine. ... So, I think that even the simple things in life, people should be more grateful. Especially, you live in America. Really count your blessings. Really appreciate all of the little things you have."
According to Ranfranz & Vine Funeral Homes, there will be a visitation from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28. A service will immediately follow at 2. Both will be held at Ranfranz & Vine Funeral Home, 5421 Royal Place NW, Rochester.
For a selection of the Post Bulletin's previous coverage of Igor Vovkovinskiy, see below: