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Turtle Lady of 320th St.

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Posted: Friday, June 1, 2018 12:15 am

Got a call from a friend telling me about “The Turtle Lady of 320th Street.”

Intriqued, I made a call finding out she was on location just across the street from B.J.’s on 320th St. (Lucy Street). Within minutes I arrived on site in the pouring rain. Like a small miracle, the downpour stopped as I opened my car door.

Carefully, I made it down the slippery bank of the canal where I introduced myself to sparky, 75-year old, Eileen Chea Harran. Immediately, Eileen began the story on the plight of the turtles.

After finding out the canal along 320th street was being covered, she began her work. “I have been here 60 plus days catching and moving these precious creatures to a secret location. At first I thought there were only a few, but to date we have rescued over 43 turtles and close to 150 fish. I haven’t done it alone. After posting a sign on the corner, several dedicated volunteers joined the cause. Of course, there have been others who passed by yelling that we are nuts but that hasn’t stopped our efforts.”

Using scoop nets on long poles, I asked for her secrets on successfully capturing those speedy reptiles to which she replied, “We lure them near the nets with French bread. They don’t seem to like Italian or Cuban bread as much.” Jokingly I remarked, “How about Jewish rye?” Chuckling Eileen answered with a smile, “Don’t know, haven’t tried it.”

As we talked I learned more about this Lover of Nature. As the youngest from a family of 12 children, she would pull her red wagon through her neighborhood in Connecticut bringing home sick or injured

animals.

“As High School graduation approached my counselor told me I wasn’t college material. But since I was eight years old my dream was to become a nurse. I proved my counselor wrong and became a nurse serving in the U.S. Navy for 21 years.” Eileen has helped countless wounded military personnel towards recovery. 

Her adventures led her to Homestead in 1980. She went on to become a nurse practitioner serving anyone, anywhere, within driving range. But her desire to save animals in need never stopped. Now, instead of an old red wagon, Eileen uses her red Toyota pick-up. To her credit, she has aided over 2,000 cats and dogs paying for their medical expenses and care from her own funds until she could find each one a new home. Proudly she exclaims, “Had to refinance my home three times but to save God’s creations. Its worth every penny.”

Affectionately know as the Cat Lady of Homestead, Eileen might have to broaden her nickname. As for the turtles she vows, “Come rain or shine I’ll be trying to save those precious creatures until the last scoop of dirt covers the canal.”

As we parted, Eileen added one more bit of information, “You know, I’ve never been married…but I’m still looking.” Eileen, be assured, I’ll pass the word around!

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