Jack Hanna, the retired zookeeper who was a favorite guest on late-night talk shows, was diagnosed with dementia in 2019.
Now, his family has revealed he is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
Hanna’s wife Suzi and daughters Kathaleen, Suzanne and Julie, shared the grim health update with The Columbus Dispatch.
Suzi, to whom he has been wed since 1968, explained, “The Jack people knew isn’t here anymore, but pieces of my husband are. And I’m going to hang on to them for as long as I can.”
In spite of the progress of his disease, Hanna, 76, still remembers Suzi, their dog Brassy, and his eldest daughter Kathaleen.
Suzanne says, “He just stopped remembering who I was in all ways.”
She explained, “Whether it was in person or by phone, he had no idea I was his daughter. I think it’s because he didn’t see me as much because I got married so young and I moved away.”
Jack led a big life as a world traveler, the director of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, a TV show host, and a regular on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” and “Late Night with David Letterman.”
Now, his life is very different. He lives in Montana and relies on a daily routine of medications and two-mile walks with Suzi for normalcy.
Suzi shared, “My husband is still in there somewhere. There are still those sweet, tender moments — you know, pieces of him that made me and the rest of the world fall in love with him. It’s hard. Real hard some days. But he took care of me all those years, and so it’s my turn to take care of him.”
She enjoys their walks together, with Jack typically admiring the trees along the way, saying things like, “Hello, tree. You are a pretty tree. I love you, tree. God bless.”
Suzi said, “I want to hold on to these walks as long as I can. I remember the day this all officially started. The day the doctor told us what it was. I’ve just tried to hang on to the little pieces of Jack since then.”
For now, she’s taking care of Jack along with the help of Kathaleen, who has her own family in England.
In the article, Suzi and Kathaleen discussed home health care for Jack. Suzi told her daughter, “I just want it to be your dad and I for as long as I can… The river, the sun, Brassy, our walks… That’s what we have left.”
Jack was reportedly in denial when he was first diagnosed in 2019. The family said he told them, “I know my brain doesn’t work so good sometimes, but I’m okay. No way I got this.”
The Dispatch said he wanted to keep his health issues private for fear of losing work. Jack officially retired in 2020, and Kathaleen told the paper, “He would have worked until the day he died. He only retired due to the Alzheimer’s. He was embarrassed by it. He lived in fear the public would find out.”