Benn Kramer

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Cover of BENN KRAMER: CLIMBING THROUGH AUTISM, a book about Benn Kramer by Mary Scott

Benn Kramer (died October 2005) was an open water swimmer, a photographer and an endurance athlete from Canada who died tragically during a mountain climbing accident and had autism. His nickname was Eagle Man of Hornby Island.

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Kramer was the subject of a 104-page book with 156 photographs called BENN KRAMER: CLIMBING THROUGH AUTISM written by Mary Scott, published in 2013. The book is an inspiring story for anyone dealing with autism.


A biography of Hornby Island's Eagle Man, who overcame the restrictions of autism to live a life of personal accomplishment. Benn Kramer, the celebrated Eagle Man of Hornby Island, was an autistic man who, thanks to the love and attention from family and friends, overcame the restrictions of his condition and lived a life of adventure and personal accomplishment. In the 1950's and early 1960's, autism was a misunderstood and frequently undiagnosed condition, and children suffering from it were often deemed hopeless cases. Kramer's family, already struggling with the loss of another son, was unaware of the cause of his slow development and was unable to cope with his wild behavior; things only became more difficult for them with the unexpected death of his mother.

Fortunately, Ruth Weber, a special education teacher in Montreal where Kramer went to school, became interested in him, and when he was five she and her husband, Willy, took him to live with them so that she could devote full attention to his care and development. Kramer flourished under Weber's tutelage and he learned to talk and to manage in society. As he traveled with the Weber family, he learned to become increasingly independent and to perfect new skills.

As a result, Kramer traveled widely when he became an adult, became an adept wildlife photographer, and made friends wherever he went. While people noted his direct approach and mode of speaking, many people were unaware of his autism and accepted his bluntness and unique behaviors unconditionally.

When he was a teenager, Kramer returned to live with his widowed father in Montreal, and eventually joined his older brother in British Columbia, living with him and his wife and family, working summers at their campground on Hornby Island. It was there that he became fascinated with the eagles that nested on their property and began to climb the tree opposite the nest tree in order to observe and photograph the eagles in their nest. He set up a treetop feeding station to ensure they had enough to sustain the eaglets they produced each year. He even constructed a sleeping platform high in the tree in order to watch the birds and to see the world from their perspective.

Kramer craved physical activity and was physically fearless. He loved skiing and hiking. As a youth, he had learned to climb and would climb anything he could, wherever he could.

Kramer also swam as a young man and went swimming everywhere he saw water. He learned to dive and would share his seafood harvest with everyone. He participated in many 45.9 km circumnavigation swims around Manhattan Island in New York City. In 1999, Kramer decided to swim to raise money for the New York Families of Autistic Children, and he received much recognition and praise for his dedicated efforts to promote the annual Swim of Hope in New York to benefit research and programs for autism.

When Kramer was in his late forties, he met a young autistic woman to whom he became engaged. He was looking forward to married life when he was killed in a climbing accident near Winnipeg, Manitoba in October 2005 at the age of 49.

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