CASTRO VALLEY -- Two years ago, Ione Kleven saved a teenage boy who had been stabbed in a confrontation with two men in an attack outside her home. This week, the Castro Valley grandmother was honored for her brave deed.
She is the recipient of a medal and a monetary grant from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, a Pittsburgh-based organization that recognizes people who attempt to save the lives of others. "It's really quite an honor; it's humbling," said Kleven, 67. "I didn't expect this kind of attention."
The portrait artist put herself at risk the night of May 14, 2010, when the harrowing attack unfolded outside her home. Around 9:30 p.m., she said she heard shouting, followed by what sounded like "frantic running." Kleven said she went outside and saw two men fighting on her front lawn with a 14-year-old boy, who yelled to her that the men were trying to kill him.
Acting on pure instinct, Kleven ran toward the assailants, screaming at them to stop. "He was smaller, much younger and clearly outnumbered," she said. "On his face was a look of terror; that's not something you turn your back on."
Kleven grabbed the teenager's arm and dragged him away from harm. She then ordered the assailants -- described as men in their 20s with thick builds -- to leave. The pair stopped the attack for a moment, seemingly stunned by the older woman's aggression. Kleven said the men did not touch her but were about to attack the boy again when her husband, Oliver, a former Marine, appeared on the front porch. The men hesitated and then drove away, she said.
But Kleven was not finished. She noticed the boy had been stabbed in the abdomen and told her husband to make sure the teenager did not run away, fearing he might bleed to death. As Oliver Kleven dialed 911, she drove after the assailants but lost sight of their vehicle and was unable to write down its license plate number.
"I'm not afraid of many things, but I would have been afraid of me that night," she said. "To see (the attack) made me enraged. I've never been that mad before."
The next day, one of the boy's relatives visited Kleven's home. The relative said the first thing he said after waking up from surgery was that someone should thank her for saving his life.
Two-and-a-half years later, no arrests have been made, she said. But the teenager has made a "miraculous recovery" and has stayed in touch with the Klevens, she said.
His parents nominated her for the Carnegie Hero medal, which the national organization awarded to 18 people Wednesday.
Kleven said friends since have told her she should have just gone inside and dialed 911.
"But that wouldn't have worked; it absolutely would have been too late for him," she said. "You don't want to live your life in fear."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.