Jack Hanna's Wife: He Is 'Still in There Somewhere'

Family of renowned wildlife expert speaks about his full-blown Alzheimer's
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2023 1:04 PM CDT
Updated Jun 25, 2023 7:15 AM CDT
Jack Hanna's Wife: He Is 'Still in There Somewhere'
In this 2013 file photo, Jack Hanna stands at the front entrance of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell, Ohio.   (Tom Dodge/The Columbus Dispatch via AP, File)

The symptoms began surfacing around 2017—renowned wildlife expert Jack Hanna would occasionally forget what city he was in on one of his many public outings. He'd lose the thread of conservations, need things repeated, etc. "No way," Hanna said upon being diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2019, writes Mike Wagner at USA Today. Hanna's family announced the diagnosis in 2021, and the family is speaking for the first time at length about the 76-year-old's steady decline since then. "The Jack that remains now only remembers his wife Suzi, his dog Brassy, and, at times, his oldest daughter Kathaleen when she travels nearly 5,000 miles from England to care for her dad," writes Wagner. Hanna's "eternal smile has been replaced by a strained, vacant expression."

He and Suzi stay mostly on their 50-acre Montana farm these days, though the family put it up for sale last month. It's a long way from the life Hanna led over the last 50 years, with countless TV appearances (particularly on David Letterman's show) and his work to build the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium into what was an elite institution in Hanna's prime. "My husband is still in there somewhere," says Suzi, who agreed to speak publicly to help other families dealing with Alzheimer's. "There are still those sweet, tender moments—you know, pieces of him that made me and the rest of the world fall in love with him. It's hard. Real hard some days. But he took care of me all those years, and so it's my turn to take care of him." (Read the full story.)

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