Today is the 100th birthday of Dick Proenneke. Who doesn’t love a recluse? Especially one that is not writing a manifesto and sending letter bombs, but is simply building a log cabin in the Alaska wilderness and talking to himself. A lot. I will watch this series on PBS whenever it is on, it is my “Law and Order,” so to speak. The take away from Dick’s story is that he did all this after he retired, so it is never too late to follow your dreams. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Richard Louis Proenneke
OCCUPATION: Heavy equipment operator, carpenter, mechanic
BIRTH DATE: May 4, 1916
DEATH DATE: April 20, 2003
EDUCATION: McMaster College
PLACE OF BIRTH: Primrose, Harrison Township, Lee County, Iowa
PLACE OF DEATH: Hemet, Riverside County, California
BEST KNOWN FOR: Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke was a self educated naturalist who lived alone for nearly thirty years in the mountains of Alaska in a log cabin he had constructed by hand near the shore of Twin Lakes.
Living in a log cabin he constructed by hand, Proenneke made valuable recordings of both meteorological and natural data.
On May 21, 1968, Proenneke arrived at his new place of retirement at Twin Lakes. Before arriving at the lakes, he made arrangements to use a cabin on the upper lake of Twin Lakes owned by a retired Navy captain, Spike Carrithers, and his wife Hope from Kodiak, (in whose care he had left his camper). This cabin was well situated on the lake and close to the site which Proenneke chose for the construction of his own cabin. Proenneke’s bush pilot friend, Babe Alsworth, returned occasionally to bring food and orders that Proenneke placed through him to Sears.
Proenneke remained at Twin Lakes for the next 16 months, when he left to go home for a time to visit relatives and secure more supplies. He returned to the lakes in the following spring and remained there for most of the next 30 years, going to the lower 48 only occasionally to be with his family. He made a film record of his solitary life, which was later recut and made into a documentary, entitled Alone in the Wilderness. It has aired on PBS numerous times. In 2011, a sequel was produced after it was revealed Proenneke had shot enough footage for at least two more programs. Alone in the Wilderness: Part 2 premiered for the first time on December 2, 2011. A premiere date for Part 3 has yet to be announced.