Lessons from a Legend
Louis Zamperini’s story returns to the spotlight when Unbroken hits theatres on Christmas day. Here we share a local author’s personal take and tome written with the incredible man.
Written byDavid Konow
Louis Zamperini had many lives. He was a track star; an Olympian; a man who survived 47 days adrift at sea by drinking rain and eating raw albatross and shark liver; a prisoner of war; a man who learned to forgive those who wronged him; someone who inspired millions.
Former Tarzana resident David Rensin (who recently moved to Ventura County) is something of an expert on the now legendary figure, who passed away this past summer at the age of 97. Before the 2010 release of Unbroken, the best-selling book which focuses on Zamperini’s time as a POW, he and David had been working on his autobiography. Devil at My Heels, co-authored by David, came out in 2003.
People tell me, “You’re such an optimist.” Am I an optimist? An optimist says the glass is half full. A pessimist says the glass is half empty. A survivalist is practical. He says, “Call it what you want, but just fill the glass.” I believe in filling the glass.
The two met through Louis’ wife. As David tells it, he’d been friends with Cynthia Applewhite for many years but had no idea her husband had lived such an incredible life until he saw the TV show 48 Hours, which featured him.
“As a writer, you can sense an incredible story when it comes along,” David says. “But once you get into it, it becomes personal and inspirational. Louis taught me a lot about forgiveness, and his attitude towards life inspired me.”
David says that’s why his new book, Don’t Give Up, Don't Give In, was written. The book is Louis’ message in a different format. The “guide to life,” as David describes it, addresses some of Louis’ personal philosophies—like the role of faith in his life, as well as what he did after the war.
Readers will learn that Zamperini dedicated his life to helping wayward kids with his Victory Boys Camp, found God during a Billy Graham crusade and developed a passion for skateboarding that lasted into his late-80s. David says he is most struck by the fact that Louis didn’t end up bitter or defeated.
David recounts him saying, “What’s the point of hanging onto it? It happened, it’s done. Being angry doesn’t hurt them; it hurts you.”