A Zoo Story: Mike Dee
Can you remember when the grove of towering Mexican palm trees located just past Treetops and inside the new Elephants of Asia exhibit were just four feet tall? Mike Dee remembers because planting them was among his first duties when he joined the Zoo staff in 1967. Do you remember when the Zoo was home to sable antelope, oryx, addax, Cape buffalo, springbok, and greater kudu? In his first assignment as relief keeper in the North American and African sections, Mike cared for those animals along with many more. Other than a two-year hiatus in the military, Mike spent his entire career at the L.A. Zoo and his responsibilities and expertise grew over the decades. Mike served as Senior Animal Keeper, Curator of Mammals and ultimately, General Curator, and was the species coordinator for the AZA population of Indian rhinos for 23 years.
For some retirees, ending a long career means never going back. That’s not the case with Mike Dee. He feeds his passion for animal life by attending reptile shows throughout the country, serving on the board of the California Wildlife Center and joining GLAZA’s docent program, where he’s frequently asked to tour guests or help out at special events. “I spent 40 years at a job I loved. Why wouldn’t I continue to do what I love most by staying involved with the Zoo?” Mike says.
After his retirement, Mike and his wife, Donna, decided to include the Zoo in their estate plans by selecting GLAZA and two other wildlife organizations as residual beneficiaries of Mike’s retirement fund. “It just made sense. I don’t have children, so I wanted to pass on to the organizations that were most meaningful in my life whatever was left after we’re gone.”
Caring for Animals Beyond a Lifetime
Madeline Taft can’t remember a time when she didn’t love animals. She had all the usual household pets – cats, dogs, canaries – while growing up in Brooklyn. She nurtured her passion for horses during summers at camp in Pennsylvania. And when she moved to California, she joined the West Valley Junior Equestrians and participated in many horse shows and parades. So it was quite natural that the first thing Madeline did, when she retired as a social worker for Los Angeles County, was to join the docent class at Los Angeles Zoo. This May Madeline celebrates 34 years of being a docent where she has held a variety of positions including Docent Chair. After serving as docent liaison to the Board of Trustees of GLAZA, Madeline stayed on and has been a valuable member of the board for the last ten years.
Madeline and her husband, Elliott, have combined their love of animals with world travel and have visited zoos in Moscow, Kiev, and Dublin, to name a few. It was before departing for a six-week trip to Africa in 1995 that the couple decided to get their estate plans in order. When they met with a financial advisor, they knew they wanted to include the Zoo in their estate plans. Besides their love of wildlife, Madeline credits the warm people and docents at LA Zoo for inspiring their desire to leave something to the Zoo. Madeline and Elliott have been generous donors and enthusiasts in many ways including patrons of Safari Club and donors to Elephants of Asia. Their arrangements to leave an unrestricted cash bequest to GLAZA give them a special sense of creating a legacy that will support their passion for wildlife beyond their lifetimes.
There are many ways to leave a gift to GLAZA in your estate that are simple and straightforward – and can be amended or revoked at any time. For more information you can request a copy of: Eight Ways to Remember the Zoo in Your Will.
For further information on how you can become a Selig Legacy Society member, please contact Suzanne Torgeson at email@example.com or at (323) 644-4782.