Family Of Renowned Conservationist Jack Hanna Reveals ‘The Jack People Knew Isn’t Here Anymore’ As His Alzheimer’s Progresses

Jul 06, 2023 by apost team

Jack Hanna grew up loving animals. Jack’s family had a farm, and he was a happy volunteer for its veterinary section. His love for animals also put him in trouble in college when he snuck animals into his dorm room and behind the frat house. 

Jack started his career with a family-sized zoo, but after a mauling incident and a lawsuit, he closed it down and got work in Florida. In 1978, Jack moved to Columbus Zoo, despite its state of disrepair, because of its proximity to the Columbus Children's Hospital. The wildlife adventurer got to work refurbishing and fixing the zoo's reputation. 

Jack came to the limelight by appearing on "Good Morning America" and David Letterman's talk show for live animal demonstrations. He became the zoo's director between 1978 and 1992. Jack then became the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium emeritus director in 1992. 

While at the facility, he secured funding for the zoo and transformed the environment into a more standardized one. His appearances on TV also raised the zoo’s profile. Consequently, visitor numbers increased astronomically by 400%. While he was active, Jack also hosted a few TV shows and provided commentary on animal subject matters on TV. 

However, Jack was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2019 and had to resign in 2021. On June 21, 2023, his family told a tabloid that he could no longer recognize many of his family members because his condition had advanced rapidly. Continue reading for more details on Jack and the Hanna family's life in the wake of his Alzheimer's progression. 

Jack Hanna (2016), (Rich Polk/Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images for Safe Kids Worldwide)

Jack Hanna is beloved by many who credit him with their love for animals. The conservationist appeared on "Animal Adventures," "Into the Wild" and "Wild Countdown" and won over his audience with his expertise and love for animals.

Jack has been married for over 50 years to his college sweetheart Suzi Egli. The couple wed in Jack's senior year at Muskingum University in 1968 and have three daughters, Kathaleen, Suzanne and Julie Hanna.

Jack's daughters released a letter on April 7, 2021, about their dad's Alzheimer's diagnosis and progression. 

"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," the letter began

The three women announced that Jack would no longer live a public life and continued:

"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."

Jack's daughters reflected on how the zoo was always a big part of their lives. They added: 

"His media appearances allowed him to bring an unparalleled level of awareness to the importance of global conservation given the unrelenting pressures on the natural environment."

The letter further read: 

"While Dad's health 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."

The statement ended with a plea to the public to respect the COVID-19 restrictions and give the family some privacy.

Jack Hanna, Drew Barrymore (2016), (Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images for Safe Kids Worldwide)

Unfortunately, Jack's condition has worsened over the years, and he barely remembers any members of his family except for his wife, his dog Brassy and sometimes, his oldest daughter, Kathaleen. His wife and their daughters had an interview with Columbus Dispatch to show how difficult living with Alzheimer's can be on June 21, 2023, in Jack's home. Egli told the outlet: 

"The Jack people knew isn't here anymore, but pieces of my husband are. And I'm going to hang onto them for as long as I can." 

She added that she doesn't want to leave her husband's well-being to care providers, as she wants to spend every moment with him. Egli continued:

"I want to hold on to these walks as long as I can. I remember the day this all officially started. The day the doctor told us what it was. I've just tried to hang on to the little pieces of Jack since then."

"My husband is still in there somewhere," she said. "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."

Jack’s daughter Suzanne chimed in: 

"He just stopped remembering who I was in all ways. Whether it was in person or by phone, he had no idea I was his daughter. I think it’s because he didn’t see me as much because I got married so young and I moved away."

Suzanne added that they decided to share her dad's story to help and encourage others in the same situation. Hopefully, their motivation for doing so would yield the desired results.

Suzi Egli, Jack Hanna (2018), (Michael Tullberg/Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images)

Do you know anyone who has Dementia or Alzheimer's? Do you have any words to say to Jack's family?  Did you watch any of his shows? Let us know — and be sure to pass this article on to friends, family members and fellow Jack Hanna fans!

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