Memorial book chronicles local’s life on atoll
One of the Roaring Fork Valley’s more colorful characters from the late 1970s until his untimely death in 2008 is memorialized in a new book about his life and times over his four years living in French Polynesia.
“Journal de Dennis Abba Krieger” is a compilation of Krieger’s regular email diaries sent to family and friends while he and his French wife, Annette Gareyte-Krieger, lived on a small South Pacific atoll called Hao, from early 2005 until December of 2008.
Krieger was a chiropractor and homeopathic practitioner in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs during his many years living in the valley. He died in a flash flood while hiking on Tahiti in early December 2008 at the age of 59.
He had spent his last years living on Hao with Gareyte, who compiled the emails and had them published in a book, along with her colorful illustrations that depict their life on the atoll.
“After the tragic event of his death, I decided to conserve the memory of Abba with this book,” Gareyte wrote in a letter accompanying a copy of the self-published limited edition book that was provided to the Post Independent.
Copies have also been sent to public libraries in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Aspen, and were expected to be in circulation this month.
Krieger was an active crusader for alternative health care, nutrition and environmental causes during his time living in Carbondale from 1977 until the mid-2000s.
He ran for the state Legislature in 2002 as a Natural Law Party candidate. He also taught a unique yoga class called “laughing yoga” in Glenwood Springs, and played saxophone in the popular Glenwood Hot Strings Band for several years.
After meeting Gareyte during a vacation in the French Polynesian islands in 2003, the couple married in Glenwood Springs in 2004 and decided to move to the islands the following year.
They settled on Hao, which part of a string of 78 atolls in the Tuamotu Archipelago east of the island of Tahiti.
“An atoll is an island that looks like a necklace … with a large salt water lagoon in the center and the South Pacific Ocean on the outside,” Krieger describes in one of his early email journal entries in 2005.
“An atoll once was a volcano,” he further explains. “A coral reef formed around the volcanic island, and over the years the island sank into the ocean, leaving the band of coral reef and the lagoon.”
The 235-page, coffee table-style paperback book includes dozens of emails sent back to friends and family, including his daughter Leah from a previous marriage, during their four years on the atoll. The diaries are printed in English, and were also translated by Gareyte into French.
The entries describe facts about the islands, the people and culture, and many stories about fishing and cooking adventures, hikes and bike rides around the islands, sea kayaking, weather events, raising chickens, gardening and some interesting dinner guests.
“There is not much here on Hao,” Krieger wrote in an Aug. 24, 2005 entry. “The lagoon is beautiful and the island has many palms and coconut and some plumeria, bougainvillea and other flowers I don’t know.
“The town, Otepa, is even smaller than Carbondale was in 1977 when I came there,” he wrote. “Otepa boasts three small stores and three smaller cafes.”
Krieger eventually opened a chiropractic office on Hao and later on Tahiti, while Gareyte taught at the middle school on Hao.
“My practice is booming, and I love treating on the barter system,” he wrote on Oct. 11, 2005. “I have been given clothing, Tahitian pearls, mother of pearl, shell necklaces and decorations, baked goods, and garden vegetables, papayas, bananas, chicken feed, and of course lots of fish and coconuts. We love it!”
After moving his practice to Tahiti, he spent his weekdays there and returned to Hao on the weekends. He was also chosen to be the team chiropractor for the best outrigger canoe team in the Polynesian Islands at the time, called Shell Va’a of Tahiti.
“It was in Tahiti that he found his beloved mountains again and went on several discovery treks with his friend Ben,” Gareyte writes on the back cover of the book.
On Dec. 7, 2008, during an excursion in the Papenoo Valley, he was carried away by a flooded river during a torrential rain storm. His body was later found by another hiker.
Gareyte now lives in Vijon, France.
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