Tallest man in the United States, Igor Vovkovinskiy, dies at 38 in Minnesota

Igor Vovkovinskiy
Rochester, Minnesota resident Igor Vovkovinskiy, 27, watches as President Barack Obama arrives to speak on health care during a rally at the Target Center on September 12, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo credit Genevieve Ross/Getty Images

The United States' tallest man, Igor Vovkovinskiy, who jokingly referred to himself as 'Obama's biggest fan,' has passed away at the age of 38.

Vovkovinskly stood head and shoulders above average men, who come in at 5 feet 9 inches tall. He measured in at 7 feet 8 inches tall, nearly two feet more than average.

Vovkovinskiy first came to America in the 1980s and he found himself at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, as a child in 1989 where he was only expected to have treatment for a month. His family sought treatment after he was born at 11 pounds, and by six years old was 6 feet tall, his mother Svetlana Vovkovinska shared on "60 minutes."

Vovkovinskiy quickly became a local celebrity, gaining international attention for his condition that, for him, brought physical struggles. Vovkovinskiy grew up to become the tallest man in America and made his home in the southeastern Minnesota city.

The cause of his height, a tumor pressing against his pituitary gland causing it to secrete abnormal levels of growth hormone, was also a leading factor in his death. Vovkovinskiy had diabetes and other health problems and died from heart disease on Friday, the Star Tribune reported.

Vovkovinskiy's older brother, Oleh Ladan of Brooklyn Park, shared that his brother was a celebrity when he arrived from his native Ukraine because of his size and the end of the Cold War. However, this wasn't the life that Vovkovinskiy wanted. Ladan shared that he "would have rather lived a normal life than be known."

Throughout his life, Vovkovinskiy appeared on several different talk shows and did numerous interviews about his size. When he spoke with "60 Minutes Australia," he shared that seeing the world every day from his height was different.

"I always have to think about: Am I endangering my life? Nothing is built for my size, so everything is a challenge," he said.

He also appeared several times on "The Dr. Oz Show," once where he was declared the country's tallest man in New York City.

Vovkovinskiy's mother is an ICU nurse at Mayo Clinic, and she shared the news of his death on Facebook.

Vovkovinskiy lived with his mother in a house with special cathedral ceilings and graduated from Rochester's John Marshall High School. He also earned a two-year college degree from the city's community college. He wanted to be a lawyer, but his physical challenges were staggering.

He once asked for help in 2012 on Facebook to cover the estimated $16,000 cost for specially made shoes that wouldn't cause him crippling pain. At the time, he said he hadn't owned a pair for years as his feet were size 26.

"I'd like to do simple things, like maybe go window shopping at a mall. I haven't done that in about four years. Maybe walk my dog, go fishing," he said, the Tribune reported.

Vovkovinskiy received double what he needed, and the attention got him an invitation to a Minnesota Timberwolves game. He even received help from Reebok, who gave him custom shoes for free.

Ladan shared that his brother's health problems worsened in recent years as he struggled to walk but was a devoted uncle to his nephew and niece.

A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. on Saturday at Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Homes in Rochester.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Genevieve Ross/Getty Images