After hearing Nick Jans, author of "The Grizzly Maze," speak at the Kenai Public Library and after reading the Daily News' "Deadly Devotion" article by George Bryson, I'm prompted to write about the Timothy Treadwell I came to know for seven years prior to his death.
In Nick Jans' talk, he admits he never knew or met Tim. He offers that he writes an unbiased view of Tim from his conversations with game biologists, park employees and others. Yet during Jans' slide presentation, he gleefully points out the "California-style" clothes, shoes, hair, etc. of Tim. (One slide shows Tim getting off an Otter on the Katmai coast in anything but outdoor gear.) This treatment sets the tone for the audience to deem Tim as someone not of "expert stature" or worse yet, as a "doofus" as some Alaskans and bear experts deemed him to be.
I had first met Tim at a national book exposition in Los Angeles several years ago, both of us being authors, hawking our books to the attendees. We talked of our experiences in Alaska. Over the years we shared stories of Alaska in our homes and at local social functions (we lived nine miles from each other in California) about his enthusiastic stories of the Alaska wildlife, the unparalleled natural beauty, the Alaska people and the Alaska way of life as we lived it. Our visits continued up through the spring of 2003.
Many bear experts say he never had formal training in wildlife studies and shouldn't be considered an expert. But Mr. Jans, bear experts and the public only needed to have witnessed Tim's talks with elementary and grade-school children, to the boys and girls clubs, to senior groups, civic groups, talks in libraries and his television appearances to realize he brought a "bear awareness" to the general public that enraptured schoolchildren and the public in ways no zoo and many experts could ever match. While bear experts are true pros in their field, Tim was unmatched in reaching out to the public with his beautiful film presentations, his passion, his enthusiasm and persona.
He named bears to bring to the public's eyes a friendliness, but cautious, personal view of these beautiful giants that we Alaskans are so fortunate to see in the wilderness. To Tim and to the schoolchildren, seniors and others who sat wide-eyed through his presentations, they were known as Mr. Chocolate and Booble. To the bear experts they are simply categorized as "Bear 141," etc.
Tim's death is a true loss, not only to his family but also to the schoolchildren and the public who witnessed his enlightening films and talks on Alaska bears. Through all his faults and carelessness about his lack of outdoor experience in the wilds of Alaska, Tim is truly missed as not only a "bear awareness expert," but also as a friend.
Ed Kobak is the author of several sports reference books. He divides his time between California, Nevada and the Kenai Peninsula. To submit a commentary, 675 words or fewer, for consideration as a Compass, send it to email@example.com with your contact information.