The tallest man in America – a 7-foot, 8-inch-plus Ukraine native who lived in Minnesota – has died from heart disease, relatives said.
Igor Oleksandrovych Vovkovinskiy, 38, died Friday at the Mayo Clinic Hospital Saint Marys campus in Rochester, where he moved from the Eastern European nation more than three decades ago, according to his obituary and a Facebook post by his mother.
Vovkovinskiy — who left Ukraine as a young boy to treat a tumor pressing against his pituitary gland, leading to his immense size — passed away from heart disease after meeting with his older brother, sister-in-law and other relatives, his mother Svetlana said.
“Igor was glad to see them, and although it was difficult for him to speak, he tried to joke about his nephew Andriy, whether he had learned the Ukrainian language in a month in Ukraine,” Svetlvana Vovkovinska wrote alongside a photo of herself clutching her son’s face.
Vovkovinskiy, who stood at 7 feet, 8.33 inches tall, was crowned as America’s tallest living man in 2010. He traveled from Minnesota to New York, where a Guinness World Record adjudicator certified his massive stature on the set of “The Dr. Oz Show.”
The Ukraine native beat out the previous record-holder, Virginia deputy sheriff George Bell, by a third of an inch.
“It feels so good to finally have proof that I am the tallest man in America,” Vovkovinskiy said at the time. “Everyone is always asking me if I’m certain that I’m the tallest and I was never able to prove it. Now that I have this certificate to hang on my wall, I could finally show it!”
In 2010, Vovkovinskiy had a 24 10-E size shoe size, measuring more than 4 inches across, and had difficulty performing routine daily tasks like getting into cars or finding desks to accommodate him while at the Minnesota School of Business, where he sought a degree in paralegal studies.
Vovkovinskiy, who aspired to become an attorney, later earned a two-year degree from Rochester Community and Technical College, the Star Tribune reported.
Vovkovinskiy asked the public for help to pay for $16,000 specially-made shoes in 2012 when his feet had grown to size 26, causing him severe pain. Thousands of donations poured in and Reebok ultimately made the custom shoes for free, the Star Tribune reported.
“I’d like to do simple things, like maybe go window shopping at a mall,” Vovkovinskiy said. “I haven’t done that in about four years. Maybe walk my dog, go fishing.”
Decades earlier, Vovkovinskiy’s mother had brought him to southeastern Minnesota for treatment when he was 6 feet tall at just 6 years old. She told “60 Minutes Australia” she only expected to stay in the US a month, the Star Tribune reported.
Vovkovinskiy’s health issues worsened in recent years and he struggled to walk, but he remained a devoted uncle to his niece and nephew, his older brother Oleh Ladan told the newspaper.
Igor, who also had diabetes, “would have rather lived a normal life than be known,” Ladan said.
A memorial service for Vovkovinskiy will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Ranfanz and Vine Funeral Home in Rochester.
“He enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, occasional fishing and traveling, and helping the Ukrainian Army in any way he could,” his obit read.
Vovkovinskiy also appeared in movies in shows throughout his life, including the 2011 film “Hall Pass” with actor Jason Sudeikis and the 2013 “Eurovision Song Contest” during which he carried the Ukrainian contestant on stage.
He was also featured in the 2007 show, “Inside Extraordinary Humans: The Science of Gigantism,” the Star Tribune reported.
Vovkovinskiy once caught the eye of President Barack Obama, who called him out during a campaign rally in 2009. He was wearing a “World’s Biggest Obama Supporter” when the commander-in-chief spotted his shirt, according to the newspaper.
Vovkovinskiy was almost 7 inches shorter than the world’s tallest man, Sultan Kösen of Turkey, who measured 8 feet 2.8 inches in 2018, Guinness World Records officials said in March.