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Mailbag: Doctor played big role in mammal center founding

August 10, 2011

The recent article "40 years of rescues" (Aug. 7) leaves out a highly significant figure in the founding of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center: Dr. Rose Ekeberg.

Ekeberg, a long-time Laguna Beach veterinarian, played a significant role in working with Jim Stauffer and John Cunningham. She was honored by the center for her role in helping to found and support the center.

Any article about its founding is incomplete without mentioning the huge contribution of Ekeberg. She passed away in 2010, and this letter by Cunningham appeared in the center's newsletter:

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"Our center's first veterinarian, Dr. Rose Ekeberg, passed away June 18, 2010. She was born in 1927 in Montana where her father owned a general store in an area with a large Native American population where Rose's blond curly hair was a curiosity. She came from a nurturing background. Rose was the first woman that graduated in a class of veterinarians and had to deal with discrimination toward women wishing to work in this field. It was her strong personal drive and determination that helped her overcome this barrier.

In the early '50s, Rose moved to Laguna Beach, where she owned and operated the Canyon Animal Hospital.

Local lifeguard Jim Stauffer, co-founder of the marine mammal center, worked alongside Dr. Ekeberg, and it was Rose who encouraged Jim to start a group to rescue, treat and release the seals and sea lions along the coast.

Rose made inroads into better treatment methods by sending Jim to the undersea center in San Diego to acquire knowledge about the latest medical procedures. By using these methods, their success rate improved greatly. Inspired by this improvement and still in need of additional help, they organized the first meeting, thus forming the Friends of the Sea Lion in 1971.

Dr. Ekeberg served as the marine mammal center's veterinarian for the next 11 years, providing the center with a strong foundation and professional standing.

Rose was honored in 2001 at the 30th anniversary awards dinner for dedicating her time and expertise to help ensure a future for marine mammals. The center is truly grateful for Dr. Ekeberg's dedication and accomplishments."

I hope that you honor Ekeberg's memory by accurately reporting how the center came to be.

Ron Kotkin

Laguna Beach

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