See an older NBC4 report on Jack Hanna in the player above.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Zoo has set up ways to send messages of love and support to longtime director Jack Hanna and his family as he continues a private fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
Hanna, for years a regular on television talk shows showing off animals and promoting the zoo, withdrew from public life in 2021 after his family revealed his diagnosis. He had retired as zoo director in 1992 and as director emeritus in 2020.
Since then, he has been unseen publicly, under the care of his wife, Suzi. They have three daughters, Kathaleen, Suzanne and Julie.
“While Dad/Jack is still mobile, his mind fails him, the light in his eyes has dimmed, and we miss who he was each and every moment of the day,” a note on Hanna’s social media pages posted Wednesday read. “We have been so grateful for your kind messages, words of support, and the privacy you have afforded our family over the last 2+ years.”
Columbus Zoo President and CEO Tom Schmid said notes of encouragement to Hanna and his family can be delivered to a green mailbox in the guest relations office. They can also be emailed to email@example.com. Schimd’s comments came after Hanna and his family agreed to a media profile.
“We are grateful to the Hanna family for sharing such a personal update about Jack’s private battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” Schmid wrote on social media. “Their decision to talk about Jack’s health challenges brings awareness to this disease that affects more than six million Americans of all ages. We stand in support of Jack, Suzi, and the Hanna family. Jack is and will always be an integral part of the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds’ history and legacy.”
Hanna, 76, was born in Tennessee and came to Ohio in 1965 to attend Muskingum University. He met Suzi there, and they were married in 1968. Hanna joined the Columbus Zoo in 1978, overseeing decades of expansion and publicity.
His withdrawal from public life came at a difficult time for the zoo. Two top executives stepped down for allowing relatives to live in houses owned or controlled by the zoo. An investigation found that over $630,000 was misspent. A documentary said that some of the animals that Hanna brought onto his television appearances were not properly cared for at other times. The zoo ultimately lost its accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Hanna’s family said they will continue to live privately.