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Loggerheads to love

Story ID:4260
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:various N.Carolina usa
Year:2007
Person:The Beasleys
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If you watch Animal Planet - you probably know what Loggerheads are. I only
have basic cable, so loggerheads were a mystery to me until I read a wonderful
story in the Guideposts May 2007 issue. I have such a hard time parting with
these wonderful little magazines and especially all of the 2007 group because
that year was devoted to stories re "Living Green."

So over a year later I picked up this issue and sifted through the pages again
stopping at the amazing picture of this white-haired lady with a sparkling smile
and twinkling eyes holding close to her a baby green loggerhead turtle. Well, I
didn't think I wanted to hold one so close until I read her remarkable story.

In 1970 Jean and Fred Beasley of Ohio honeymooned on Topsail Island, North
Carolina. While there, they had fallen in love with the beaches and decided it
would be their vacation venue each summer. During one vacation, her brother
Richard spotted an animal- the size of a truck engine coming out of the water
and making its way right to their house. Eight-year old Karen was immediately
interested and asked - "What is it?" Jean knew it was a sea turtle making its
way ashore to lay her eggs.

The turtle began digging with her back flippers and sand flew through the air
smacking against the porch. Intrigued, some family members watched for awhile
but soon retreated inside. Not Jean and Karen. They watched fascinated until
two in the morning when the turtle finally finished laying her eggs and then
crawled back into the churning waves of the ocean.

The next summer both Jean and Karen hoped they could find some traces of the
hatchlings that had since made their way into the sea. But looking at the spot
where they knew the eggs had been buried, they were disappointed to find not
even a trace of their birthing. Not knowing when the eggs had actually hatched,
they began to search for information which they finally found it in a government
pamphlet.

They learned that their visitor had been a loggerhead --one of seven species of
turtles who were either endangered or threatened. Amazingly, the sea turtles
live their entire lives in the ocean, except for the females who travel hundreds,
or even thousands of miles returning to the exact beaches where they themselves
had been hatched decades earlier -now to lay eggs of their own.

It would take about 60 days for the turtles to hatch, but by that time the Beasleys
had been back in Ohio. But the next summer and each summer thereafter they
returned to not only sweep over the trenches left by the mothers so that their
nests would be protected, but they also would be there to dig roads in the sand
during the hatching time so that the babies could follow them down to the surf.

People soon found out about these two devoted turtle watchers and when Fred
retired in 1990, the family moved to Topsail permanently.

By 1990 Karen had graduated from college and got a position with a public relations
firm in Charlotte. How proud she and her family were of her realizing her career
goals. But then the unthinkable happened. Karen developed a nagging cough
which turned out to be serious. She had leukemia. Karen needed rest and so
had to give up her dream job and retreat to the cottage at Topsail to live with her
mom and dad and her beloved loggerheads.

Though ill, she continued their work with the turtles and during this time when
they were getting many calls of mother turtles laying eggs up and down the beach,
she encouraged her mother to start an organization for this enterprise. And so
the Topsail Island Project was born.

Karen realized the vital role which turtles play in the ocean eco-system. She began
lecturing schools and libraries explaining this role-- noting that their disappearance
from the ocean would also mean that the oceans are dying. She knew that the
extinction of this species would be permanent and irreversible.

As she was fighting to save the turtles, she was losing her own battle to save her
own life. One autumn evening she mentioned to her mother that her employment
had entitled her to a life-insurance policy. She asked her mother if she didn't
survive to make sure the insurance money be used for the turtles. Although this
conversation was painful for Jean, she promised to abide by Karen's wishes.

One night they received word that a big female had come ashore near them.
Despite not feeling well, Karen told her mother she wanted to help the nesting
turtle -- keeping an eye on her --but far enough away as to not disturb her. The
two critical parts in helping the loggerhead was first protecting the nesting mother
and then 60 days later helping the newly hatched turtles make their mad dash
to the water.

Though exhausted, Karen stayed until the mother turtle layed her eggs and
returned to the ocean. She promised her worried mother that she would sleep in
the next day. She never regained her strength or vigor and two days later - short
of her 30th birthday, Karen peacefully slipped away like the turtles she loved
returning to their ocean home.

Four years after her death, a 40- pound immature loggerhead turtle washed up on the
beach at North Topsail Island. Severly injuried-- probably by a boat propellor, Jean took
it to the N.Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. The vet observed
that this was one lucky turtle because Jean found him when she did. Dr. Lewbart told
her "He's also lucky that his braincase wasn't broken or his optic nerve severed by the
propellor that hit him.

Jean decided to call him Lucky and quickly found a discarded fiberglass tank for him
to recuperate in. After 18 months of healing, Lucky was finally carried to the sea by
Jean and the Turtle Project volunteers. "So long, Lucky," Jean said, as he slowly flapped
out to sea. "May the Lord watch over you."

After Lucky's return to the ocean, Jean recalled Karen's words -Help the turtles.
She realized that to do this they needed a turtle hospital. In 1997 The Karen Beasley
Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center opened its doors. They have been able
to help 150 sick and injured sea turtles.

Jean realizes that eventually comes the moment to say good-bye to each one of them.
She knows that she has to give them back to the ocean and back to God. She says:
"It's never easy. But there's no time that I feel closer to God - or to Karen--than when I
place one of these turtles in the waves and watch it swim off to make its ancient way in
the world.

She also reflected: "Sea turtles are just one of the world's many endangered species.
But they're MY species - the one I've dedicated my heart and my life to helping, just like
Karen did.

By chance or, perhaps, by something more, a mother turtle picked my daughter and me
out on that moon-lit summer night so many years ago, when she crawled out of the sea,
right up to our doorstep on Topsail Island. Yes, God does have a way of getting your
attention."

I concur Jean. If we but open our hearts to God, we will all find ways to appreciate this
earth which the Creator has loaned us to enjoy and care for. We may not engage in an
operation as large as Jean's and Karen's, but our efforts no matter how small to try
to keep our planet pure and pristine will be efforts worthwhile making. These two
women are special but we can be too if we follow the gentle nudgings of a Creator who
wants us to care for and appreciate His earth.