Obituaries [Oct. 2008]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2008:
(Actual publication date 11-5-08.)

Roger Troen, 77, died on April 23, 2008 in Portland, Oregon. Even among fervent animal-rights activists, Roger Troen stood out. He d be the one costumed as a demented butcher with fake blood and cleaver, performing guerrilla theater during an anti-fur protest, or as Colonel Sanders outside KFC protesting factory farming, or chalking the ground outside the Oregon Health Science University primate center, recalled Amy Martinez Starke of the Portland Oregonian. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Mormon convert, and elementary school teacher 1959-1969, Troen left teaching and the Mormon church to become active in gay rights advocacy circa 1970. He took up animal advocacy soon afterward, helping to lead the campaign that in 1977 made Portland the third city in the U.S. to quit killing shelter animals by decompression. Only Berkeley (1972) and San Francisco (1976) quit sooner.

The cause gathered momentum, and by the end of 1985 decompression was abandoned throughout the nation. After making unsuccessful runs for political office in 1982 and 1984, Troen in 1986 became involved as a convicted accessory-after-the-fact in a break-in at the University of Oregon psychology laboratory in Eugene that was among the first high-profile actions attributed to the Animal Liberation Front. Between 125 and 300 monkeys, rabbits, hamsters, cats, and rats were taken from the lab by burglars who did $58,000 in damage to the facilities, according to conflicting accounts of it. Troen claimed that his only part in it was trying to transport some of the animals to places where they would be safe. The prosecution contended he was the getaway driver. Troen was arrested after taking several rabbits for veterinary treatment. The veterinarian traced their tattoos and called the police. Convicted in 1988, Troen served three months under house arrest, performed community service, and paid a fine of $35,000. Several others were charged in connection with the raid in 1990, but the charges were dropped a year later to protect the identity of a federal informant. Troen went on to form an organization called Rat Allies, with about 150 members, was among the 60 people who attended the first No Kill Conference in 1995, was active in several groups that encouraged faith-based concern for animals, and was an avid of ANIMAL PEOPLE who often sent activist news from the Portland area.

Ratilal Rati or Ray Shah, 72, died of heart failure on October 20, 2008 in Dallas, several days before his anticipated departure to inspect humane projects he sponsored in India and to spend the Dussera and Diwali holidays in Mumbai. Born in Anjar, Kutch region, Gujarat state, Shah came to the U.S. in 1966, earning a masters degree in electronic engineering from Stevens Technical University in New Jersey. Among the first Jains to seek an education in the U.S., at a time when practicing the strictly vegetarian Jain lifestyle in the U.S. was extremely difficult, he encouraged many others to follow. He met and married the former Bonny Karstadt in 1968, while she was a student at Rutgers University. Bonny Shah died of leukemia in July 2004. Unable to find work as a teacher after Rati took a job in Dallas, Bonny started a business called Maharani, importing hand-crafted dog collars and other gift items from India, but instead of selling the collars, she used them to bring rescued dogs home, Rati Shah told ANIMAL PEOPLE in 2001. He joined Maharani in 1975, three years after the birth of their son Noah. Finding a niche supplying animal-theme items to zoo gift shops and other stores, the Shahs put much of their profit into building a school in India that was among the first to teach computer skills as part of the curriculum, a human birth control clinic that performs 200 sterilizations per year, and a general-purpose clinic serving 30 villages that treats 18,000 patients per year without charge. At the Shahs home in Bartonville, Texas they established a personal sanctuary for rescued animals, including donkeys, pigs, and other farmed species, founded Ahimsa of Texas to support dog and cat sterilization, and in India founded the Dharma Donkey Sanctuary. With the help of the Blue Cross of Hyderabad and the Brooke Hospital for Animals, Rati Shah said in 2004, we treat 2,500 donkeys there at donkey camps held every six months. All of these projects are expected to continue, under direction of Noah Shah and Rati s brother and sister-in-law, Ramesh and Usha Shah. Bonny and Rati Shah also sponsored humane education and feral cat rescue work by Kat Chaplin, the Dallas-based Neuteress of the Night. Chaplin introduced the Shahs to ANIMAL PEOPLE in January 1998. During the next six years Bonny Shah contributed profiles of the Bishnoi people of the Rajasthan desert, whose Jain-like faith emphasizes kindness toward animals; the Donkey Sanctuary, in England; and the Wildlife SOS and Friendicoes sanctuaries in India. She also contributed photos, including a portfolio from the Galapagos Islands, and helped with investigations in India, Mexico, and Costa Rica. Rati Shah was a frequent donor in her memory.

Dierdre Maher, 65, died at her home in Deerfield Beach, Florida, the Gulf Daily News of Bahrain reported on October 16, 2008. A nurse and health educator at Bahrain School since 1977, Maher was a longtime volunteer for the Bahrain SPCA, founded by Khalil and Betty Rajab in 1979.

Norma McMillen, president of People for Animal Rights in Kansas City from 1988 to 1998, died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on October 4, 2008 at her home in Gilbert, Arizona. An accomplished equestrian who became active in animal advocacy circa 1983, McMillen initially agreed to lead PAR for six months on an interim basis. She held annual vigils for homeless animals, led fur protests, shut down puppy mills, rescued animals, and lobbied for local and state legislation, remembered Kansas City Star staff writer Kim Kozlowski when McMillen retired to Florida, before relocating to Arizona, where she remained active in animal causes to the end of her life. She provided a strong local voice to national groups on issues such as cosmetic and medical testing, carriage horses, downed cows, use of bovine growth hormone, hunting, pet theft, circuses, and dog and cock fighting, recalled Susan Richards of Kansas City. Perhaps her most memorable campaign targeted the substandard dolphin exhibit at the Oceans of Fun amusement park, owned by oil and silver tycoon Lamar Hunt, who also owned the Kansas City Chiefs football team. Oceans of Fun closed the dolphin exhibit at the end of 1996.
Robert Emery, 54, was killed on the night of September 27, 2008 when he was struck by a motorcycle while trying to rescue three dogs who were trapped against the concrete median barrier on the East Freeway in Houston. A resident of Big Pine Key, Florida, Emery was in Houston with a crew hired to clear debris left by Hurricane Ike. A search for next of kin by Kelleye Nagata of Clear Lake and Cheryl Lang of No Paws Left Behind in Houston found Alaina Emery, 25, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who had not seen her father in 20 years, but had been trying to locate him. Contributions collected by Lang s organization to memorialize Emery will go toward a $2,000 annual scholarship at the Veterinary Paramedic program at Houston Community College Northwest in Katy, reported the Houston Chronicle.

Candace Chapas, 55, was killed along with her dog on the night of October 10, 2008 when she escaped from her burning rented home in Sarasota, Florida, but returned inside to get the dog. Her husband Walter Chapas suffered minor injries. The fire was believed to have been started by candles that they were using for light after their electricity was cut off.
Amy Garrett, 47, a National Park Service Ranger who won the 2003 Freeman Tilden Award for innovation in conservation education, was killed on October 6th, 2008 near Fort Smith, Arkansas, when her vehicle hydroplaned into a guard rail and rebounded in front of a truck. Garrett had worked at Death Valley, Yellowstone, Homestead National Monument of America, and Central High National Historic site. She had recently transferred to Fort Smith. The Freeman Tilden Award is presented by the National Park Service and National Parks Conservation Society in memory of Freeman Tilden, 1883-1980, who reported about the National Park system for various media from circa 1918 to the end of his life.

Les Schobert, 61, died of lung cancer on Octber 14, 2008 at his home in La Quinta, California. The son of a zoo veterinarian, Schobert started his zoo career at Busch Gardens in Florida. Appointed curator of mammals in 1971 at the former Busch Gardens park in Houston, he introduced less violent elephant training methods. After the park closed, Schobert in 1978 became general curator of mammals at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheville. There Schobert in 1980 built a three-acre exhibit for the five resident elephants that was then the largest elephant enclosure in the U.S. He also rebuilt the chimp-anzee facilities to encourage more natural behavior, and accepted a chimp named Ham from the National Zoo in Washington D.C. Ham in 1961 was the first hominid launched into space, four months before Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth. Kept alone for 17 years at the National Zoo, Ham was integrated into the North Carolina Zoo chimp colony. He died in 1983. Schobert was the Los Angeles Zoo animal collection curator from 1992 to 1996. He made drastic changes in the elephant barn and took the elephants off their nightly chains, recalled In Defense of Animals. Schobert also tried to close the Los Angeles Zoo penguin exhibit, where 44 penguins had died in 10 years. Les was active in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, where he sat on the ethics board, was vice chair of the Wildlife Conservation Management Committee, and headed the Chimpanzee and Great Ape Taxon Advisory Group, IDA added. In the last five years of his life, as an IDA consultant, Schobert helped to lead campaigns on behalf of captive elephants throughout the U.S., including the effort that in 2007 led to the Los Angeles Zoo retiring an elephant named Ruby to the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in northern California. Most recently Schobert helped to stop a Dallas Zoo plan to transfer a 32-year-old African elephant named Jenny from a solitary quarter-acre habitat to the drive-through Africam Safari Park near Puebla, Mexico. Africam is AZA-accredited, but in Mexico the elephant would have been beyond reach of the U.S. Animal Welfare Act.

Samantha J. Schleh, 19, of Palm Coast, Florida, was killed on October 23, 2008 by a car driven by Charles T. Crowe, 50. Her friend Michael H. Griffin, 23, suffered minor injuries. Schleh and Griffin were trying to rescue Griffin s dog from State Road A1A, after another car hit the dog. Visibility was poor; Crowe was not charged.

Peter Getz, 32, a handler at Safari s Interactive Animal Sanctuary near Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, was on October 29, 2008 killed by a lion/tiger hybrid named Rocky after entering the liger s cage at feeding time. Safari s has been criticized for a web site showing founder Lori Ensign bottle-feeding tigers and walking them on leashes. Getz was killed six weeks after non-fatal attacks on personnel occurred at the Branson Zoo in Stone County, Missouri, and the now closed Wesa-A-Geh-Ya exotic animal park in Warren County, Missouri.

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