Allow me to introduce you to a friend that most of you never met. His name is Mickey Ollson and he was the director of Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park, Arizona’s largest collection of exotic and endangered animals.
I was introduced to Mickey early in my zoo career. Colleagues claimed that one visit with Mickey was worth a whole week of conference sessions. I found that to be true when invited to join him on a day trip through Ohio while attending a national conference at Columbus Zoo. I felt like a kid going to Disney World just being a passenger in Mickey’s car. Not only was Mickey a wealth of information, and experience, but he was a great story teller.
We became friends and through the years Chahinkapa Zoo has partnered with the Wildlife World Zoo in several conservation programs including white-handed gibbons.
Mickey Ollson passed away this past Sunday from a short battle with leukemia. The zoo community is saddened. We miss our friend knowing that one of the good ones leaves a void.
Although it touches me personally, you may ask why I write about Mickey Ollson in our local newspaper? I do it because Mickey was a dreamer. He was an optimistic and wonderful visionary. As a child he fantasized about opening a zoo one day. And he did! He never stopped planning, building, working hard for the greater conservation efforts.
Mickey was one of the first I turned to when I need confirmation, corroboration, or just to solve an animal concern. He was a great friend to so many. And he was a model human being to anyone who had the honor to meet him.
While I was writing this column, Bruce Fingerson, zoo educator, stopped in my office and shared some wonderful pictures drawn by third and fourth graders at Campbell-Tintah Public School. Their art depicted zoo animals inspired by Bruce telling of his daily work. It was a most fitting example of the importance of aspirations! I am certain that the children in Bruce’s charge have huge ambitions.
It is up to us all to foster those wishes to make hopes come true. Whether it is local school children, regional partners, or long distance colleagues and friends let it be a reminder that we must encourage the dreamers, stand by the visionaries, and celebrate the lives that make everything good in our world.
Kathy Diekman is director of Chahinkapa Zoo.