Jimmy Buffett, and Triumph Over Tragedy: Q+A with Ocean Hero Finalist Jean Beasley
BY: Justine Sullivan
Jean Beasley – Topsail Island, NC.
In 1997, Jean established The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in memory of her daughter, who led a local effort to protect turtles before losing a battle with Leukemia at age 29. To date, Jean and her volunteers have rehabilitated and released over 300 turtles back into the wild, fought for (and won) stronger regulatory protections in North Carolina, and worked to educate the public about the threats that sea turtles face in the wild.
Please describe your contribution to ocean conservation:
I am a lifelong teacher and supporter of education as a way of solving problems. I believe that if you can stimulate others to see a problem, challenge them to learn more about that issue, then inspire them to become passionate about finding the solution, you have created a group of activists who just may change the world. I am in a great position to interact with people of all ages who are attracted by the mysterious and fascinating creatures I work with every day – sea turtles. I have the privilege of leading these sea turtle fans to recognize the message the turtles bring: The oceans are in trouble. Habitat is being invaded and degraded. Pollution is killing. Marine life is in trouble. If they, these ancient creatures who have seen and endured all the cataclysmic changes that reshaped the planet, are in trouble, then surely we are in trouble, too. I am not afraid to show my passion and my love of the ocean in my works and my actions. I believe it is my passion that inspires others to believe they can make a difference. This is my gift to the oceans that I love.
Please explain why your contribution is important and why voters should choose you as a winner of the 2013 Ocean Hero Awards:
I am mindful that there are many among my colleagues that have made the sacrifices and provided the vision and leadership that makes them Ocean Heroes. In fact, I would like to make everyone an Ocean Hero and this is indeed my goal. Within every child, man, and woman there lies the potential of making a real contribution to the conservation of our planet and occur oceans on which the planet depends. We must tap into that potential. We hear too much today that is doom and gloom and although we need to recognize the problems we also need reassurance that all is not lost. We must not give up and give in. There are opportunities for change. We can change! We can save the planet! We can save the oceans!
How long have you been conducting your ocean conservation efforts?
The seeds were planted all those years ago when my love affair with the ocean drew me back time and again. The reality came much later. In 1970, I saw my first sea turtle lay her nest close to where I was sitting. It was a special moment that has played an important part in my life in the decades since. My daughter, Karen, was with me and the experience created an even stronger bond between the two of us. In the ensuring years, she became more dedicated to the beaches, the sea turtles, and the ocean, and recruited others to clean up the beach and to protect the turtle nests. I was a part of those efforts. In the mid-1980s, she was diagnosed with life-threatening leukemia. Her work with the sea turtles became her lifeline. She lost her battle with that disease at the age of 29 after a five-year battle. She left me with treasured memories, money from her life insurance policy, and the request that, if she didn’t make it, to use it to do something good for sea turtles. She had organized the Topsail Sea Turtle Project to monitor the beaches of Topsail Island and to protect the nests and the nesting turtles. When she died, I stepped in to continue her work. I had no idea what the money would be used for. Years later, I used it as the seed money to build a sea turtle hospital in her memory.
How did you get started? What were your first steps?
In the midst of grief, carrying on Karen’s work was a way I could do something to honor her memory. I was happy to offer a place for sick and injured sea turtles to heal before they returned to the sea. For several years, I didn’t have much time for anything else. But gradually I began to come back to life. I began to see more in what the sea turtles were bringing to me than their illnesses and injuries. I began to recognize the greater problem of the degradation of their habitat. This was important to me. It was my ocean, too. Something needed to be done. Someone needed to sound the alarm.
How will you define success?
I will define success as anything that is beneficial to our conservation mission, no matter how small a step. I will survive losses and not be defeated. Success is continuing to try to move forward, no matter what the obstacles.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to be an Ocean Hero?
Don’t be embarrassed to speak up to defend the oceans. In spite of all its power and beauty, the ocean has no voice but ours. Use it.
What is your favorite ocean or beach-related song or band?
I’m a parrothead. Jimmy Buffett…and he loves and respects the ocean!
Inspired by Jean Beasley? Vote for her to be a 2013 Ocean Hero!