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Originally from the Seattle area, John McDermott came to Alaska in 1970 for a teaching job in Skagway. He met his wife, Lorna, and in 1977 they purchased the old Patterson Cabin in Dyea ( and made Dyea their permanent home. After teaching for a couple of years, John took a job as a conductor for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad and worked there until the railroad shut down in 1982. After living outside of Alaska for a few years, the McDermotts moved back to Skagway in 1993 and John returned to seasonal work for the railroad until he retired in 2012. In 2001, the McDermott's moved into a more modern home in Dyea, where they continue to maintain a large garden and "homestead," and donated the Patterson Cabin to the National Park Service in 2002. John is an active birder and gardener, and also having been a hunter and trapper, he is a keen observer of the natural environment who has witnessed changes in his almost 50 years in the area. As a way to help local residents share information about environmental change, John started the Skagway, Naturally! Facebook page, where people can enter their observations and exchange in discourse about what is happening in the natural world around them.