Penny Miller came from the Pittsburgh Zoo to the Good Zoo in Wheeling in 1975, before the roof was on the building.
The first curator, she got the Good Zoo started.
It’s now a breeding center for wild and endangered species from around the world.
And she says it is a little zoo with a big heart.
She has dealt with every animal from snakes to bison, and she still remembers the day the bison escaped.
“Yeah, that is one of my favorite stories–when the bison escaped–because I met my husband that way,” she recalls. “He was a veterinarian and we called on him to help and that’s how we met, and we were married for 32 years.”
That husband and wife team of zoo curator and zoo vet had a life filled with animals and adventures.
“We had a baby kangaroo, Boomer, who lived in a little cloth pouch that hung on the kitchen cabinet and he would hop around the house,” said Miller. “I was taking home lion cubs, bear cubs, tiger cubs and mountain lion cubs, we had so many things over the years. And those were very special memories.”
She says she leaves behind an animal care staff that is passionate, dedicated and well-educated.
She says they work in all kinds of weather, calling in to check on animals even on their days off.
Now she plans to travel, to return to Africa for more visits, to see the world, and the wild animals in it.
“I think you need to retire when you’re young enough to do the things you want to do when you’re still physically able,” Miller noted. “And I’ve learned that lesson from my husband passing away and from losing friends too early.”
Her departure is a sad time for the zoo.
“Oh gosh, how conflicted I am,” says John Hargleroad, Oglebay Parks director of operations. “I’m so thrilled she’s going to enjoy a new part of her life. But she’ll leave such a hole here at the zoo.”
Miller’s last day is Saturday.