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Golden lion steps down after decades at Anchorage hotel

·2 min read

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The golden lion that stood watch in at the Alaska hotel named after it has finally been retired after the building changed hands.

The nearly 50-year-old stuffed lion was moved from its home at the Best Western Golden Lion Hotel in Midtown Anchorage last week, the Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.

"It was quite the conversation piece at the hotel,” said Kelly Kneaper, daughter of original hotel owner Jerry Groseclose. “Over the years, I can’t think of how many thousands and thousands of people have taken a photo with the lion.”

The hotel was bought in December by the Municipality of Anchorage as part of a plan to convert the property into a drug and alcohol treatment centre .

Groseclose and partners GJ Red Huggins and Jack Linton built the hotel “from the ground up,” said Kneaper, who was 12 years old when it opened. Groseclose and Linton’s children inherited the hotel after their deaths.

Groseclose shot the lion in Uganda in 1972 during a monthlong trip to Africa with his wife, Lonnie. After about a year, the stuffed lion travelled to Anchorage to join other stuffed big game.

Kneaper recalled the times she and her brother, Brian Groseclose, would climb on the back of her dad’s lion and a leopard while playing.

Kneaper chuckled and said, “My dad would be like, ‘Get off that!’”

The lion's $1,000 relocation began in mid-January, paid for by Hugh Wade, Kneaper’s oldest friend and broker for the hotel.

The stuffed lion weighing more than 200 pounds (91 kilograms) and its mount were hauled down two flights of stairs and into the back of a truck last week.

One of Wade's friends agreed to store the stuffed lion until a permanent home is found.

“Life is short and we’re here to make memories,” Wade said of the moving project and taking ownership of the lion. “It’s been fun, yeah, it was worth it.”

The Associated Press