Human obituaries

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2006:

Linda Howard, 39, unexpectedly shot herself on July 27,
2006, after a domestic dispute at her home in San Antonio, Texas.
A computer systems analyst by trade, Howard was by avocation a
humane investigator, animal rights organizer, and behind-the-scenes
communicator and facilitator, who for more than 15 years helped to
bring wildlife traffickers and abusers to justice, organized the
coast-to-coast Primate Freedom Tour in 1999, brokered exotic animal
rescues and relocations worldwide by telephone and Internet, and
helped to research more than fifty articles for ANIMAL PEOPLE,
mostly declining public credit for her contributions. Briefly
employed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Friends of
Animals, Howard preferred to volunteer, assisting dozens of
organizations as opportunity permitted. “Primates never had a better
friend and primate abusers never had a more formidable foe,”
recalled International Primate Protection League founder Shirley
McGreal. “Despite her years of selfless struggle on behalf of our
primate cousins, Linda had never seen a wild monkey. I invited her
to come with me to the International Primatolog-ical Society Congress
held in Entebbe, Uganda, in late June 2006, and to travel with me
afterwards to Murchison Falls National Park in northern Uganda. On
the drive up we saw many baboons and every time Linda would insist
the driver stop and we would watch the troop until the baboons
disappeared from view. We went on to Jacana Lodge in the forested
area of Queen Elizabeth Park. The trees were full of exquisite
colobus monkeys and the more elusive redtail guenons. One night I
was in the lodge reception area and Linda stayed in the room. There
was a knock on the door. Linda opened the door and there stood a
mother and baby baboon. It was as if they somehow knew there was a
friend behind that door. The baboons made no effort to enter. They
just stood there briefly, and left. Linda was overjoyed.”

Joanna Burke, 36, since 1998 the senior caregiver at the
Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, was abruptly head-butted
and stomped on July 21 while examining–but not touching–the swollen
eye of an elephant named Winkie, whom Burke had handled for six
years. Winkie came to the Elephant Sanctuary after attacking several
handlers during a stay of about 30 years at the Henry Doorly Zoo in
Madison, Wisconsin. “In 45 seconds it was over. It just happened
so quickly,” said Elephant Sanctuary facilities director Scott
Blais, who had already examined the elephant’s eye. “There was not
a moment when I knew that something was wrong, that maybe we should
back up,'” Blais told Nashville Tennessean staff writer Leon
Alligood. Blais suffered a broken ankle and other injuries in a
futile rescue attempt.

Richard & Wanda Reigelman, 61 and 64, owners of the
Pymatuning Lake Deer Park zoo in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, were
killed in a July 27 head-on collision with a car driven by Amanda
Allen, 16, who died a day later. Police said Allen lost control of
her vehicle and crossed into the opposite lane. Exhibiting more than
200 animals, offering a petting menagerie and pony rides,
Pymatuning Lake Deer Park remained open, at least temporarily,
under interim management by the Reigelmans’ daughter and son-in-law.
The privately owned zoo has operated since 1953.

Susan Butcher, 51, died of leu-kemia on August 5, 2006,
in Seattle. Born in Boston, Butcher “moved to Alaska at age 20 out
of a love for animals and the wilderness,” recalled Washington Post
staff writer Martin Weil. “She first competed in the 1,150-mile
Iditarod Trail dog sled race in 1978. For several consecutive years
starting in 1980, she finished in the top five. A collision with a
moose set her back in 1985, but she came back to win each of the
next three years’ events,” eventually becoming the only female
four-time winner. “Ultimately, she finished fifth or better in a
dozen Iditarods,” Weil summarized. Butcher revolutionized sled dog
training by motivating her teams with love instead of aggression;
formed a self-policing association of dogsledders; outspokenly
opposed breeding large numbers of dogs to cull down to get a speedy
team; and kept as many as 28 retired dogs. Butcher withdrew from
competition after one of her favorite dogs died suddenly from a heart
attack during the 1994 Iditarod. Following the death, she gave her
team a 24-hour rest, dropping out of contention. Not formally
announcing her retirement, she raised two daughters in Fairbanks
with her husband David Monson, a fellow dog sled racer, and served
as an Iditarod official. She was diagnosed with leukemia three years
before her death.

Karen Sculac, 47, died from complications of pneumonia on
August 12, 2006, in Colorado Springs. Married to former exotic
animal trainer Nick Sculac for 27 years, she had concealed the
illness from others until two days earlier, her daughters told
Denver Post staff writer Claire Martin. The Sculacs for a time
operated a livery stable in Central City, Colorado. They cofounded
Big Cats of Serenity Springs in 1993, initially to breed and sell
exotic cats, but turned to rescue in 1995 after taking 12 big cats
from a facility called the Alamo Tiger Ranch that was closed due to
50 alleged violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Within 10
years Big Cats of Serenity Springs housed at least 85 cats. In June
2003 two Bengal tigers mauled the only sanctuary employee. Always
struggling to raise operating costs of more than $250,000 a year,
the Sculacs sold 303 acres of their 320-acre property, piece by
piece, then lost their home to foreclosure in 2005 after Nick Sculac
suffered a major heart attack and was unable to continue his
contracting firm.

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