Lloyd Beebe, the ex-logger who raised animal stars of the big and small screen at his Olympic Game Farm in Sequim, died Jan. 6, at age 94. His wife, Catherine, who handled many of the ranch's operations, died two days later at age 88.
Lloyd Beebe, the ex-logger who raised animal stars of the big and small screen at his Olympic Game Farm in Sequim, died Jan. 6, at age 94.
His wife, Catherine, who handled many of the ranch’s operations, died two days later at age 88.
The game farm continues to attract thousands of visitors, and it is trying get back into the movie business, a half-century after Mr. Beebe helped Walt Disney film documentaries and feature films.
As a young man, Mr. Beebe logged the North Cascades, but after the couple had children, he decided the job was too dangerous, so he moved to the Olympic Peninsula. He tried mink farming, then started a dairy in 1942, supplying milk to the armed forces, said a grandson, Robert Beebe.
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During the Depression, Mr. Beebe hunted deer for food and cougars to collect a bounty.
“He says he really never liked it. He was hunting to provide for his family,” said Robert Beebe. “If he ever came across orphans, he’d bring them home. He would go hunting and come home with baby cougars.”
It became second nature to observe wildlife, so Mr. Beebe took a loan to buy a camera. He collaborated with a state wildlife photographer to make “The Little Archer,” about a boy who befriends a bear cub instead of shooting it.
Walt Disney later hired him for an 18-month project in Antarctica, to document an expedition led by Admiral Richard Byrd.
Mr. Beebe filmed penguin rookeries and brought cameras on coastal flights. He offered beer to Navy Seabees to join him touring crevasses. He made a ladder that allowed him to descend 100 feet, where he compared the view to diamonds, or a glass-bottomed boat. He was nearly killed by falling ice, according to an Ohio State University polar-history archive. “Oh, it was worth it,” he said.
Back in Sequim, Mr. Beebe opened the game farm to visitors and worked on Disney films. For “Charlie the Lonesome Cougar” in 1967, he supplied several tame cougars for different scenes — one happy-go-lucky cat liked to swim, and played on some floating logs, a scene that was added to the script. Mr. Beebe furnished animals for “The Vanishing Prairie,” “The Incredible Journey” and “Grizzly Adams,” as well as television’s “Northern Exposure.”
“Until Beebe arrived, animal training was limited to how well you snapped a whip,” said Greg Heberlein, a Disney enthusiast and former Seattle Times reporter and business columnist. Mr. Beebe helped popularize gentler methods, such as rewarding bear cubs with honey or sweets.
“He always treated them like they were his long-lost friends, every time he saw them,” recalls his grandson, who now runs the game farm. “The respect goes both ways. Every time they’d get rambunctious, he’d just walk away and say, ‘No,’ and wait until they settled down.”
Mr. Beebe liked to drive a tractor, fixing cages, fences and dirt roads. “He was always go, go, go,” his grandson said.
The couple are survived by son Kenneth L. Beebe; grandsons Robert and James Beebe; and five great-grandchildren. Another son, Melvin Beebe, died nine years ago.
A memorial service, open to the public, will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at Sequim Elks Lodge, 143 Port Williams Road. Donations may go to Sequim Food Bank.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org