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Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke (1916-2003) was an American naturalist who was born in Iowa in 1916. He served in the U.S. Navy as a carpenter during World War ll. After his service in the Navy, he went to school to become a diesel mechanic. At one time, Proenneke contracted rheumatic fever, and was in bed for almost 6 months. After recovering, he decided to devote the rest of his life to keeping his body strong and healthy. He eventually moved to Alaska in 1950. After combining his skills as a mechanic, carpenter, and spending several years working locally as a heavy equipment operator, Dick finally built up enough savings for his retirement, then moved to Twin Lakes, and settled in alone for his wildlife adventure.
It was in 1968 that Proenneke built his own log cabin by hand, utilizing logs he cut and fit in an interlocking fashion, and stones to build a fireplace and hearth. He used handcrafted tools and utensils, and made basic furniture to suit his needs. A friend of Proenneke’s, a bush pilot, would fly supplies in from time to time. For the most part, Dick lived off the land, and made good use of the natural resources that surrounded him. He lived this way for over 30 years, until he was 83 years old.
Dick Proenneke died of a stroke in 2003 in Southern California, where he had lived for the final few years of his life with his brother. PBS has aired a documentary about Proenneke’s interesting endeavors in Alaska, entitled “Alone In The Wilderness.” A sequel was also aired in December 2011.