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Humans of the GI: Nettie LaBelle-Hamer

In the office of Nettie La Belle-Hamer, director of the Alaska Satellite
Facility and deputy director of the Geophysical Institute. Photo by Josh Hartman.
Josh Hartman

“My youngest child graduated in 2008 and I knew I was going to have Empty Nest Syndrome. So I wanted to plan ahead on how I would mitigate that by adding something new and different to my life. I had read that every 10 years, you have to do something that is completely new to you in order to continue stimulating neuron growth. Many people believed that neurons stopped regenerating after a certain age, but they found out that is not true—you just have to be doing something completely new. So my plan was to buy and learn to play the piano. I started looking for pianos unsuccessfully and somehow that morphed into learning to fly a plane. I can’t really explain the transition between a piano and a plane, but it was something that I hadn’t done before and it scared me very much. I had a fear of flying prior to being a pilot. It was an interesting process. It took me about 18 months of elapsed time, which depending on how you look at it is kind of long.

"My husband is a pilot, my son is, and my father was. It’s not that unique in Alaska, but it creates an opportunity to be part of a community outside of work.”