We would visit Ivan at the B&I when I was a little boy. My wife was able to see Ivan at the Atlanta Zoo before he passed away.
When I was stationed at McChord Air Force Base in the 1970s I took my two boys (then ages 8-10 yrs ) to see Ivan at the B&I. They always got such a kick out of seeing this amazing large beast up close and personal. To this day, I'm sure that's why one of my boys took a big interest in pursuing the sciences, biology and nature. Especially coming up in the BoyScouts, where he eventually earned his Eagle Scout badge.
I was there when we first got Ivan in 1964.
There are so many other memories and space limitations for this writing, I would like to tell you about his eyes. Anybody that has met him will confirm that he could talk through them. His caretakers would sit with him and somehow communicate with him the same way I did. After my Dad, Earl, passed away, Ivan somehow knew this and wouldn't eat. I sat with him for a week holding fingers until he started eating again. I really liked my private time with him.
My Dad would frequently take disabled and very sick children to the window to see Ivan. He would put the child’s hand to the glass and Ivan would touch the child’s hand on the other side of the glass. I know at these moments Ivan was “talking” to the children. The children would come by the bus load just to see him and get their one on one time with him.
I saw Ivan as a baby and continued to see him many times taking my twin daughters along who loved him as much as I did.
When they moved him to Atlanta, I had the opportunity to once again see him, which I did.
I grew up going to visit Ivan at the B&I a couple of times a month. When I was quite young, there were other primates living there as well, but soon enough it was only Ivan. I felt sad for him living the way he did, but at the same time so very grateful to have the experience of "talking" to him. I moved out of the area as a young wife and returned after about 7 years to discover Ivan still lived at the store. I introduced my children to him and he became a fixture in their story as well. When my daughter was a teen, she was a friend of one of the caretakers who worked to make his life more interesting in whatever small way she could. She gave him what he needed to paint with, and for one of my birthdays, my daughter was able to get one of his paintings for me. I have it framed and hanging next to a framed photo from the TNT of his discovery of flowers at Zoo Atlanta. I was so happy when he was relocated there! To know that after over 40 years living in cement and steel, he could feel grass and flowers and he could know other gorillas! What a gift to him for his final years! I was absolutely heartbroken when we learned of his death! This sculpture project fills my heart with such joy and love for him; I am so happy to know he is being remembered in this way!
As a child, my family used to travel from Raymond, WA to the Tacoma B&I two or three times a year. My siblings and I loved to see Ivan. I used to stand there and watch him for what seemed like hours. I loved to watch him and he seemed to love to watch everybody. Our family moved out of state for several years. When we moved back, our first trip was to see Ivan at the B&I. He seemed so much bigger than I remember. I was still in awe of him. I felt like that little girl again, as I stood and watched him, for what seemed like hours. He was more beautiful than I remembered. My husband and I had the pleasure of introducing our young children to Ivan. Our daughter thought he was the most beautiful and amazing creature she had ever seen. She brought back so many childhood memories, as I watched her stand there and look at him. She would cry when we had to leave, she wanted to stay and watch Ivan.
Ivan was a big part of my younger years as Dad was a friend of The Johnson Family that raised him. They brought him to our house when he was a baby in diapers. Of course visiting him at the B&I through the years and always feeling a special connection to him like many in Tacoma felt.
Now there's a chance to "bring him home" in an astonishingly beautiful statue that Doug Granum along with the Beloved Ivan Project is creating. And to know that Ivan's ashes are going to be permanently encased in the statue makes it all the more meaningful, and really think this will be an amazing addition to Tacoma, The Zoo, and most importantly, creating an ongoing discussion about the peril the lowland gorilla faces because of poaching and the destruction of their habitat.
Ivan will be an ambassador that will be able to teach the next generation how important these creatures are and what we can do to help save the species.
My older sister used to work at the B&I and one day she took my 8yr old self to go see Ivan. We were able to go into the back where the keepers worked and one of them handed me a banana. I had to peel down the top just a bit and then was told to stick it through this little door down by the ground. I couldn't see through the door so I was a bit scared. I stuck my hand through with the banana and I have this super vivid memory of the most massive, warmest, and extremely gentle hand envelope my tiny little 8yr old hand and how these massive warm fingers slowly & gently opened up my little fingers and took the banana out of my hand. A few moments later this gigantic black hand comes through the door and gave me back the banana peel. Feeling that massive hand first and then seeing how big and strong that hand was is a memory that I'll have forever. Ivan was a great Gorilla and I can still recall how big and gentle he was 30yrs later.
My Dad grew up visiting Ivan. He told me stories about when Ivan first came to the B&I. I can't remember how old I was the first time my dad took me to see him, I just know I was so young that I can't remember a time that going to see Ivan wasn't part of my regular routine. As I grew up, I took my friends to see him. And very often went by myself and just spent time alone with him. When he went to Atlanta I feared I would never see him again. But as fate would have it, I ended up living in GA for a time and got to see him a few more times and take my children to see him. The first time I saw him my Dad took me, the last time I saw him, I took my Dad. I always felt a connection between Ivan and my Dad. In July of 2012, I lost my Dad and just a month later the world lost Ivan. It gives me comfort to know they are together again. And somehow just seals the connection I always felt between them! I will love and miss both, always and neither will ever leave my thoughts or my heart!
I went to school with Danny, and I have been to there house many of time's , I remember when he had his cast on from jumping from the couch to fire place mantel. then one night we took Ivan in my car for a cruise down south Tacoma way to a place called Bob's burger barn, I remember Ivan well. lot's of fun back in the day.
I grew up in Enumclaw in the 60's and we were pretty poor, we would save up our allowance so we could have a family outing to the BI, it was a big deal. I would stand and watch and talk to Ivan for the longest time, I remember his eyes, he always seemed to know what you were saying. Watching him paint was such a thrill, he would rip off the papers of his pad and just toss it sometimes, like that one is perfect... so funny. I am so happy this memorial is going up for him. It brings back so many good times we had as a family.
I was hired as a manager at B & I Circus Store in 1964 and was there to welcome Ivan and Burma when they arrived. They lived with the Johnson family who brought them to the store daily. They were amazing little guys. Burma got ill and didn't survive after several months of degrading illness. The Johnson's and I took the little guys on promotional trips to Seattle. One trip we took them to KVI Radio for an interview and I was able to surprise my mother with a home visit. A visit she never forgot. She wasn't expecting the baby gorillas. She talked about that often the remainder of her life. It was a rare and wonderful experience to have such a close relationship with such beautiful and loving animals. I followed the history of Ivan over the years and was saddened by his passing.