Not All Heroes Wear Capes- Remembering Denver Leaman
On May 23, our Body Glove family said good-bye to one of our own. Denver Leaman worked as a naturalist for Body Glove Cruises for the past 25 years, sharing his extensive knowledge during the winter months for our Whale Watching excursions. His unparalleled talents were like no other. For our guests who knew Denver, and for those who didn’t, we would like to share with you a bit about this exceptional man who will be so greatly missed.
Denver was incredibly intelligent and passionate. His dedication, wisdom and contributions to the scientific community were immeasurable. He received numerous recognitions for his work, yet what he will be most remembered for is his generous spirit and kind heart.
The Body Glove crew had a game they would play with Denver and the passengers they called, “Stump the Naturalist.” The guests were challenged to present a question to Denver that he could not answer. If they were successful, the crew would buy the guest a drink. In the span of 25 years, and over 230,000 passengers, Denver was only stumped one time when a gentleman asked him, “Do whales cry?”
Unable to answer the question, Denver spent his evening researching the question. The following day, he drove 25 miles to the guest’s accommodations to give him the answer. “No,” he said. “Whales do not cry, because they have no tear ducts.” His brilliance, his dedication to the science of Cetology, and his contagious enthusiasm will live on in the hearts of all who knew him.
Born on March 13,1954 in Waterloo, Iowa, Denver was an adventurer at a young age. He hit the road at 18 years old for a life on the road. He traveled all over the United States before settling down in Long Beach, California. In 1976, he moved to Ensenada, Mexico where he met a young couple and their 5-year-old daughter who were preparing to sail to French Polynesia and the Cook Islands aboard their catamaran. Becoming fast friends, they invited Denver to join them on their journey. Never saying no to adventure, Denver joined them on their trek across the Pacific.
The group ran into difficulty in Tahiti when they were unable to obtain safe harbor, so the seasoned crew sailed for 18 days to Hawaii to seek refuge during hurricane season. After 8,000 nautical miles of easy sailing, the boat hit a reef and damaged its hull while entering Hilo Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii. The year was 1979, and Denver decided to make the Big Island his home. However, his life of adventure and stewardship to the ocean had just begun.
In 1980 Denver joined Greenpeace Hawaii. Bruce Cate, and a small team of activists, believed a few individuals could make a difference by peacefully bringing attention to environmental issues. Denver became the hero in the eyes of many when he helped stop the Navy from bombing Kahoʻolawe, the smallest of the eight main volcanic islands in the Hawaiian Islands. For decades, Kahoʻolawe, was devastated by explosions set off by the U.S. Navy.
To end the bombing, Denver and his friend Dexter Cate of Hilo, who was previously jailed in Japan for freeing hundreds of dolphins from a massive slaughter, decided the shelling had to stop. On April 22, 1982, the two men traveled by night for six miles in an inflatable boat between Maui and Molokini. The two paddled the remaining three miles by kayak and took occupancy of Kaho’olawe for a week. The fate of the two was unknown and it was speculated they drowned during the crossing. The Navy continued to bomb. Denver and Dexter made a 20’ tall sign from driftwood that read, “Aloha Aina,” (love of the land). After a week of living on dried food, they were picked up by a fishing vessel and transported back to Maui. On April 27, 1982, the bombing ceased on Kaho’olawe.
Denver’s heroic feats were not over yet. In November of 1982, Japan formally rejected the ban on commercial whaling initiated by the International Whaling commission.
Denver and his Greenpeace buddies flew to Oahu. Denver boarded the whaler and climbed to the top rigging, chaining himself aloft, while flying a full size Jolly Roger Pirate Flag. Other protesters zipped by in an inflatable boat that read “JAPAN HONOR THE BAN!” After attracting much local and international attention, the activists were arrested and released on bail for disobeying the Harbor Master.
Once a hero, always a hero. In 1986 the Hyatt Waikoloa (now the Hilton) opened its hotel with a pond that harbored captive dolphins for profit. The president of Greenpeace Hawaii, Denver. and his entourage, dawned swimsuits and toted their picket signs into the pond to free the dolphins. For a shy guy, Denver had a flair for getting on the six-o’clock news and getting his point of view heard. Denver was thirty-plus years ahead of the boycott of Sea World.
Denver’s intelligence was exceeded only by his kind heart and passionate perseverance. Through his work, his activism and his friendship, he touched everyone who knew him. He was a loving friend, mentor, partner, teacher and an advocate of environmental and conservation issues.
Denver did what he loved and loved what he did. He will be greatly missed by all.
Aloha and a hui hou Denver Leaman.
March 13, 1954 – May 23, 2018