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After awakening to a fire at his east-side Detroit home in 2015, Glenn L. Graham jumped into action.

He got his 9-year-old nephew, Damonte Delks, safely out of the burning house at 620 Melbourne St., where flames were lapping at the living room.

Graham, 56, then went back into the house in an attempt to save his great-niece, Tanisha L. Lowe, 27, who was in a second-story bedroom.

Firefighters later found the bodies of Lowe and Graham in the debris.

Graham is one of 24 people throughout the United States and Canada and the only one from Michigan announced Wednesday as civilian recipients of the Carnegie Medal Award this year in recognition of their heroism.

The medals are named for Pittsburgh steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who was inspired by stories of heroism during a coal mine disaster that killed 181 people, including a miner and an engineer who died trying to rescue others, the Associated Press reported.

“The medal is given to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others,” the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission said in a statement Tuesday.

Graham is among three honored in 2016 who died in a heroic act. Those awarded receive a grant, or it goes to their survivors.

“He was a beautiful man,” said his niece, Renee Lowe, Tanisha Lowe’s mother. “He was very positive, motivated, very spiritual. He was a very wise person. He gave good advice and was there when you needed him.”

Graham and Tanisha Lowe lived in the house, Renee Lowe said. Her daughter was legally blind and cognitively impaired, she said.

“After they exited the house through a side door off the basement stairs, Graham sent the cousin to alert help and said that he was returning to aid Lowe,” the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission said. “Graham re-entered the house through the basement door as flames quickly spread, soon engulfing the structure, causing much of it to collapse, and extending to the house next door.”

“He felt responsible for her,” said Graham’s niece, Serina Baker-Hill. “He wouldn’t have made it without even trying to go back. That’s the type of person he was. He loved us all, cared for us all, raised us all.”

Damonte stayed with his uncle at the home on weekends, Baker-Hill said. Graham helped raise 14 cousins, she said.

“His birthday is approaching April 5,” she said. “I’m sure it’s going to be a difficult time for us all. The memories are with us.”

Graham was a customer service representative for 29 years with the Detroit Public Library, Baker-Hill said. He loved books and was an avid reader, she said.

“It’s tragic it had to happen like that,” Renee Lowe said of the fire. “I would give anything to have him back. Both of them.”

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2311

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