TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Larger than life and loved by millions, Jack Hanna has always been fun to watch and fascinating to follow.
The 74-year-old has spent a lifetime educating people by entertaining them. His favorite topic, by far, is animals and the lives they lead.
“Educating people in a fun way, that’s what we do at our zoo,” said Hanna.
With his endless energy and that lovable laugh, Hanna has always lived by one motto.
“You have to touch the heart to teach the mind.”
He did just that, as the director of the Columbus Zoo, guided by his genuine gift of kindness as he drew visitors from all over the world.
“I counted 15 states here the day before yesterday, 15 states to see the Columbus Zoo,” he said with a smile during an interview years ago. “Who would have ever thought that in a million years.”
When Jack Hanna’s daughter announced her father was battling Alzheimer’s Disease in a letter posted on social media Tuesday prayers came in from all over the globe, including Tampa Bay where Hanna has strong ties with Busch Gardens where he touched countless lives.
“Dementia is a very debilitating disease, it increases in prevalence with age,” said Dr. Jerri Edwards from the Department of Behavioral Neurosciences at USF.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, USF continues to diligently study the disease.
The university was recently awarded a five-year, $44.4 million dollar grant to test where computerized brain training can reduce dementia in older adults.
Even though Hanna’s family says their father’s health is deteriorating, they say his humor continues to shine as he bravely battles Alzheimer’s Disease.
“I believe that Mr. Hanna is in his mid-seventies. The older we get, the higher our risk to getting Alzheimer’s Disease,” said Dr. Edwards.
In an online statement, Hann’s daughters said their father’s condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than anyone could have anticipated.
Our 8 On Your Side team is sending warm thoughts to the Hanna family as their loved one faces this diagnosis. We extend our warmest wishes for peace and positivity during this time.