Local News

Chapel Hill Man Born Without Arms Dies in Car Accident

Posted November 12, 2007 5:34 p.m. EST
Updated November 12, 2007 5:57 p.m. EST

— A Chapel Hill man, who gained national fame for flourishing in life despite being born without arms, died in a car accident on Monday, family friends said.

Marty Ravellette, 67, was driving a van west on Greensboro-Chapel Hill Road near Snow Camp, south of Burlington in Alamance County, around 10:15 a.m. His wife, Maree, was a passenger.

Troopers said Ravellette failed to yield at the intersection with N.C. Highway 87, and an oncoming truck carrying logs hit his van head-on.

Ravellette was ejected from his vehicle. He was airlifted to UNC Hospitals, where he later died, troopers said. Family friends said Marty Ravellette could not wear a seat belt due to his disability.

Maree Ravellette was wearing a seat belt and was at home recovering later Monday.

Marty Ravellette spent 16 years in an orphanage, because his parents could not handle his disability. But Ravellette proved that he could. Using his feet, he could drive, eat out – and even operate a chain saw.

"I wouldn't be who I am if I did have them (his arms)," he told WRAL's Scott Mason in September. "I am what I am today, because I don't have arms. And I like who I am."

In 1998, he pulled a woman from a burning car on U.S. 15-501 in Durham. The Discovery Channel aired a documentary about him in 2004.

Ravellette had a driver's license but said police officers pulled him over many times.

"They thought I was some punk kid with his foot up on the steering wheel joy-riding. When they realized I didn't have any arms and I had a valid driver's license, they let it alone," he said.

Ravellette told WRAL in September that he hoped his life experience could teach others to be more tolerant of differences.

"I think the lesson is that we need to learn to accept people as human beings," he said.

Ravellette owned a landscaping business in Chapel Hill and was a regular at Sutton's Drug Store.

He is survived by his wife Maree and an adult daughter from a previous marriage. The family was still making funeral arrangements on Monday night.