Jack Hanna, renowned animal expert from Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, is stepping back from work and public life after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. His daughters Kathaleen, Suzanne, and Julie made the sad announcement on Wednesday, publishing a heartfelt letter to fans on social media.
Along with family photos (HERE), they wrote:
“Today, we reach out to share some personal Hanna Family news. Doctors have diagnosed our dad, Jack Hanna, with dementia, now believed to be Alzheimer’s disease. His condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated. Sadly, Dad is no longer able to participate in public life as he used to, where people all over the world watched, learned and laughed alongside him.”
As Executive Director of Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, Jack worked tirelessly to improve “wildlife habitats and focused on connecting the community with animals” since 1978. Despite retiring from his role in 1992, the animal lover remained a spokesperson for the zoo until last year. Quickly, he became a beloved TV personality expanding viewer’s minds with exotic animals and a drive to protect the planet for the awe-inspiring creatures.
Throughout his lengthy career, he appeared on countless TV shows, including his own series’ Animal Adventures, Wild Countdown, and, most recently, Into the Wild. The 74-year-old was also a frequent guest on talk shows such as The Late Late Show with James Corden, Late Show with David Letterman, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Incredibly proud of their father’s achievements, the daughters added:
“He has spent his life connecting people and wildlife because he has always believed that having people see and experience animals is key to engaging them in more impactful conservation efforts. He’s always said, ‘You have to touch the heart to teach the mind.’ Even though Dad is no longer able to travel and work in the same way, we know that his infectious enthusiasm has touched many hearts and will continue to be his legacy.”
He certainly did touch all our hearts…
Also struggling health-wise is his youngest child, Julie, who has suffered “life-long challenges with her childhood leukemia.” Recovering from major surgery now, the women thanked their mom Suzi for being their rock through these difficult challenges. The couple have been married for 53 years — an incredible achievement!!
Our hearts break for this family and Jack’s closest friends. Alzheimer’s is such a devastating illness, but thankfully the girls have left fans of the zookeeper with some hope. They teased:
“While Dad’s heath has deteriorated quickly, we can assure you that his great sense of humor continues to shine through. And yes — he still wears his khakis at home.”
So sweet! Sadly because of COVID-19, the family asked for “privacy, which is ironic given Dad’s love of interacting with people.” Take a trip down memory lane and ch-ch-check out his appearance with John Stamos and Julianne Moore on The Late Late Show in 2015 to recall just how infectious and engaging his personality was!
Sending Jack and his family lots of love as they get through this challenging time!!