A final goodbye to a favorite friend.Byline: Winston Ross The Register-Guard
NEWPORT - What is it about Keiko the killer whale killer whale or grampus, a large, rapacious marine mammal, Orcinus orca, of the dolphin family. Male killer whales may reach a length of 30 ft (9 m) and females half that length. ?
The emotion. The controversy. The legions of fans. The millions of dollars he generated from the millions of people who flocked to press their noses against his transparent tank.
And on Friday night, Keiko was about the chock-full lobby of the Oregon Coast Aquarium
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is an aquarium in Newport, Oregon. , spilling out into the courtyard, the dining area, the cashier station. Nearly three times as many people showed up - more than 600 people - as this space could hold.
Children, parents and grandparents grandparents npl → abuelos mpl
grandparents grand npl → grands-parents mpl
grandparents grand npl attended Free Willy's memorial in Newport to pay their last respects Noun 1. last respects - the act of expressing respect for someone who has died; "he paid his last respects by standing quietly at the graveside"
deference, respect - a courteous expression (by word or deed) of esteem or regard; "his deference to her wishes was very to a creature who didn't speak, to attain `closure,' as one aquarium employee put it. There were songs, prayers, exhibits, videos and candles.
All for an ordinary whale - who lived an extraordinary life.
`He could do a lot of tricks,' said 6-year-old Ellesia Correa, clutching the whale's biography as she stood in a line that snaked from the front door to the parking lot, before the memorial began.
Correa, her brother and grandmother came from Tacoma to attend the service, as they did on five separate occasions while Keiko called the aquarium home. She cried when she found out the whale had died in Norway, like so many who bawled through Friday's emotional ceremony.
But it was more than Keiko's ability to amaze children with tricks that garnered his epic following, said speakers and attendees of the service. Something about this whale and this story resonated with people. They drew meaning and purpose from him, politically, spiritually or just in some intangible way that they could only explain by quietly sobbing as Keiko was remembered.
`I'm one of them,' said Theresa Demarest of Portland, who is making a documentary titled `Keiko's Legacy Tour,' a collaboration of musicians, composers, visual artists and scientists. `I had an experience with Keiko. He came up and banged on the window. I nodded my head. He did it back. Then he went away, as if to say `I'll be right back, I wanna wan·na
1. Contraction of want to: You wanna go now?
2. Contraction of want a: You wanna slice of pie? show you something.' And he came back, with his tongue hanging out and his flippers n. 1. A type of shoe with a paddle-like front extending well beyond the end of the toe, used an aid in swimming (especially underwater). up, and banged on the window again, right at me.'
But it's more, too, than having a personal interaction with the celebrity marine mammal A marine mammal is a mammal that is primarily ocean-dwelling or depends on the ocean for its food. Mammals originally evolved on land, but later marine mammals evolved to live back in the ocean. . Keiko's is one of these powerfully redemptive stories about overcoming adversity, explain those who knew him, and people who never even laid eyes on him can take something away from that.
`Keiko was not one of our kind,' said Thomas Chatterton Thomas Chatterton (November 20, 1752 – August 24, 1770) was an English poet and forger of pseudo-medieval poetry. Committing suicide by arsenic rather than die of starvation at the young age of 17, he served as an icon of unacknowledged genius for the Romantics. , a veterinary chaplain from Seaside who led the benediction benediction [Lat.,=blessing], solemn blessing usually administered in the name of God by a priest or a minister. The temple worship at Jerusalem had fixed forms of benedictions, and Christians have always given them an important place in ceremony, especially at the . `But he is still one of us. There are those who scoff at us, asking `Why do you care about a fish?' Friend, this is not your run-of-the-sea creature. This is Keiko.
`There was a profound connection; beyond explanation.'
Peter Noah, one of Keiko's trainers, remembered playing with the whale, riding his back around his tank - and knowing that he could trust this mammoth creature with his life.
`He'd pick you up and take you around, and shake you until you fell off. He got so good, not only would he knock you off, he would catch you when you fell,' Noah said. Once, after he'd played with Keiko for an hour, he said, the trainer lay exhausted in the water. `He comes over and flips me up into the gutter, then looks around, saying `Get me another one. This one's done.' '
Keiko bonded with people - around the globe. His following - along with controversy - grew during the effort to reintroduce Re`in`tro`duce´
v. t. 1. To introduce again.
Verb 1. reintroduce - introduce anew; "We haven't met in a long time, so let me reintroduce myself"
re-introduce him to the wild in Iceland.
`The day after Keiko died,' said aquarium director Pat Helbling, `I received an e-mail from a 9-year-old girl in Norway.' Here Helbling stopped, as tears welled up in his eyes, and regained his composure.
`The subject line was `To where you are,' " he continued. "She couldn't find Keiko anymore, and she was unable to say goodbye to him. She wanted me to send it `to where you are.' '
It may be hard to understand why people could fall in love with a whale. But they did just that.
It may be that Keiko is an easy character to root for, says Sara Hodges, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon The University of Oregon is a public university located in Eugene, Oregon. The university was founded in 1876, graduating its first class two years later. The University of Oregon is one of 60 members of the Association of American Universities. , cautioning that she's no human-animal relations expert.
`We like to be inspired,' she said. `We like to look up to people - whales, in this case - who do well. But sometimes it can be threatening if we see them as competitors.'
People also appreciate change, watching a being evolve from rags to riches, Hodges said.
`We're not so good at making absolute judgments of how good or bad something is, but we can see changes. Who's to say how happy Keiko was at any point in his life? But we could build this illusion that he was getting happier.'
As the music played, 13-year-old Jacob Froylan draped drape
v. draped, drap·ing, drapes
1. To cover, dress, or hang with or as if with cloth in loose folds: draped the coffin with a flag; a robe that draped her figure. his arm around his brother Noah, both fighting back tears. The 7-year-old has been infatuated in·fat·u·at·ed
Possessed by an unreasoning passion or attraction.
in·fatu·at with Keiko `ever since he was tiny,' Jacob explained. But the whale's death hit both brothers with equal impact.
`It's hard,' Jacob said. `It shows you how short life is. You should respect everything you have.
`You never know when it will be gone.'
Winston Ross can be reached at (541) 902-9030 or rgcoast@ oregonfast.net.
Brothers Jacob Froylan (left) and Noah Froylan, of Hubbard, console each other during a memorial service for Keiko the killer whale at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport on Friday. Keiko lived at the aquarium from 1996 to 1998, before being moved to Iceland. Kevin Clark Kevin Clark is an assistant men's basketball coach at the University of Rhode Island. He is probably most well-known for his stint as the head coach at St. John's during the 2003–2004 season. / The Register-Guard Melinda McComb and Mat Hutchinson listen during a prayer at the memorial service for Keiko.