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People Top 5
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- May 08, 2000
- Vol. 53
- No. 18
Her Eagles Have Landed
For Two Decades, Jean Keene Has Nourished Our National Symbol and Drawn Crowds of Tourists to a Small Alaska Fishing Town
From around Christmas to April for the past 20 years, she has hauled up to 600 lbs. a day of herring, cod heads and halibut scraps from local canneries over to her regular feeding spot, sometimes enduring temperatures as cold as 45 below zero. A Minnesota native, Keene once worked as a professional rodeo rider and a dog groomer before moving to Alaska in 1977. For 17 years she was a supervisor at a local cannery, the source of her first finny scraps. Divorced with one son, Lonnie, now 40, Keene has become a local celebrity. In season, cars, minivans and SUVs line up six-deep in the driveway of her beachfront trailer home, cameras poking through car windows as Keene feeds her feathered friends. Her detractors complain that the growing bald-eagle population disturbs the natural balance. "The eagles eat the other birds," says Clem Tillion, a local tour-boat operator. But Keene believes her work helps humans better appreciate—and thus be more inclined to preserve—nature. "Sometimes I think, what the hell am I doing out here?" she says, bundled up against the freezing rain. "But not for long."
Leslie Berestein in Homer
- Leslie Berestein.
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