|Birth Day:||May 4, 1916|
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He retired to the Twin Lakes region of Alaska at the age of 52 after working as a diesel mechanic.
Proenneke enlisted in the United States Navy the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor and served as a carpenter. He spent almost two years at Pearl Harbor and was later stationed in San Francisco waiting for a new ship assignment. After hiking on a mountain near San Francisco he contracted rheumatic fever and was hospitalized at Norco Naval Hospital for six months. During his convalescence the war ended and he was given a medical discharge from the Navy in 1945. According to one of his biographers and friend, Sam Keith, the illness was very revealing for Proenneke, who decided to devote the rest of his life to the strength and health of his body.
Following his discharge from the Navy, Proenneke went to school to become a diesel mechanic. The combination of his high intelligence, adaptability, and strong work ethic helped him become a skilled mechanic. Though adept at his trade, Proenneke eventually yielded to his love of nature and moved to Oregon to work at a sheep ranch. He moved to Shuyak Island, Alaska, in 1950.
On May 21, 1968, Proenneke arrived at his new place of retirement at Twin Lakes. Beforehand, he made arrangements to use a cabin on Upper Twin Lake owned by retired Navy Captain Spike Carrithers and his wife Hope of 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.
Sam Keith, who got to know Proenneke at the Kodiak Naval Station and went on numerous hunting and fishing trips with him, suggested that Proenneke's journals might be the basis for a good book. In 1973, Keith published the book One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey, based on Proenneke's journals and photography. Proenneke however alleged that Keith had "changed some things" to embellish the story. After years in print it was re-issued in a new format in 1999, winning that year's National Outdoor Book Award (NOBA). A hardcover "commemorative edition", celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the publication of One Man's Wilderness, was published by Alaska Northwest Books in 2013. In 2003, some of the copyrighted text from the book and some of Proenneke's film were used with permission in the documentary Alone in the Wilderness, which began appearing on U.S. Public Television. It follows Proenneke's life as he builds the cabin from the surrounding natural resources and includes his film footage and narration of wildlife, weather, and the natural scenery while he goes about his daily routine over the course of the winter months.
In 1999, at age 83, Proenneke left his cabin and moved to Hemet, California, where he lived the remainder of his life with his brother Raymond "Jake" Proenneke. He died of a stroke on April 20, 2003, at the age of 86. He willed his cabin to the National Park Service, and it remains a popular visitor attraction in the still-remote Twin Lakes region of Lake Clark National Park.
In 2005, the National Park Service and the Alaska Natural History Association published More Readings From One Man's Wilderness, another volume of Proenneke's journal entries. The book, edited by John Branson, a longtime Lake Clark National Park employee and friend of Proenneke, covers the years when the park was established. Proenneke had a very close relationship with the Park Service, assisting them in filming sensitive areas and notifying them if poachers were in the area.
Proenneke's cabin was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. The site is a popular attraction for many who want to personally experience parts of Proenneke's life and values.
The Early Years: The Journals of Richard L. Proenneke 1967–1973 was published by Alaska Geographic in 2010. As with More Readings From One Man's Wilderness, the volume is edited by John Branson. This collection of journals covers Proennekes' first years at Twin Lakes, including the construction of his cabin and cache. The journal entries overlap those in Sam Keith's edited collection of some of Proenneke's journals, One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey. But unlike that book—in which Keith frequently modified Proenneke's writing style—The Early Years presents Proenneke's journals with minimal or no modification.
Proenneke remained at Twin Lakes for the next sixteen months, after which he briefly visited home to visit relatives and secure more supplies. He returned to Twin Lakes the following spring and remained there for most of the next thirty years, traveling to the contiguous United States only occasionally to visit his family. He made a film record of his solitary life which was later re-edited and made into the documentary Alone in the Wilderness. In 2011 a sequel was produced after enough footage for at least two more programs was discovered. Alone in the Wilderness: Part 2 premiered on December 2, 2011.
In 2016 and 2018, respectively, A life in Full Stride: The Journals of Richard L. Proenneke 1981-1985 and Your Life here is an Inspiration: The Journals of Richard L. Proenneke 1986-1991 were published. In 2020, the fifth and final collection of Proenneke's journals, Reaching the End of the Trail: The Journals of Richard L. Proenneke 1992-2000 was published. These three final collections were published by the Friends of Donnellson Public Library, The Richard Proenneke Museum, and were edited by John Branson.
In 2017, a Richard Proenneke museum exhibit was opened at the Donnellson Public Library in Donnellson, Iowa, near Proenneke's hometown of Primrose. The exhibit features a replica of Proenneke's cabin, some of his writings, and other artifacts.
Richard was never married and had no children.
Currently, Richard Proenneke is 106 years, 1 months and 24 days old. Richard Proenneke will celebrate 107th birthday on a Thursday 4th of May 2023. Below we countdown to Richard Proenneke upcoming birthday.
Happy 104th Birthday Dick Proenneke
Today is the 104th 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…
Happy 101st Birthday Dick Proenneke
Today is the 101st 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…
Happy 100th Birthday Dick Proenneke
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…
Happy Birthday Dick Proenneke
Tomorrow is the 98th 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 t…