Sometimes he'd watch his visitors, sometimes he'd entertain the crowd and sometimes he'd just sit and wonder, “What are you doing here?”
That's how Linda Flint, 66, remembers Bill the Chimp, the Sequoia Park Zoo's beloved and famed chimpanzee who died June 26 after battling a long-term lung infection.
”I think it leaves a void,” Flint said as she watched her grandchild watch the zoo's black bear Tuesday afternoon. “He was always an attraction for the children, that's for sure. We always headed right there to see what he was up to and doing.”
Such memories and parting words will be welcomed at an informal Bill “appreciation” this Sunday at the zoo in response to community requests, the Sequoia Park Zoo Foundation announced Tuesday.
”It's completely informal, so come along and chat about Bill, that's what it's about,” said Pat Bitton, the zoo foundation's communications committee chairwoman and board member. “Whoever comes along is most welcome.”
The chimpanzee's exhibit will be turned into a memorial garden on Monday for Bill and his old sparring partner, Ziggy, zoo officials said.
”Bill will always have a special place in the heart of everyone who's spent time with him, and we feel it's the right thing to do to dedicate 'his' corner of the zoo to his memory,” Zoo Manager Gretchen Ziegler said in a press release. The zoo hopes to have an artist's impression of the memorial garden for the public to view Sunday, Ziegler said. It is expected to be formally opened the first weekend in October, during the zoo's centennial weekend.
”We may have a drawing of this by Sunday, but that's a maybe,” she said.
Eventually Bill's body will be cremated and returned to the zoo, where his ashes will somehow be incorporated into the permanent memorial, Ziegler said. It is hoped that his remains, which is at University of California, Santa Cruz, for further study, will be back in Eureka after the fall semester, Ziegler said.