When your lives revolve around the Milwaukee County Zoo, making a legacy gift to the Zoological Society of Milwaukee (ZSM) seems the natural thing to do. Mary and Richard Johnson established a planned gift for the ZSM about 10 years ago, but kept it private. Two years ago they attended a Zoo Pride meeting where someone called attention to the important roles of planned giving and the Simba Circle. "We came away thinking, ‘Why not let other people know about our passion and vision in hopes of inspiring others," recalls Richard. Mary and Richard agree the Zoo is a treasure for the community-another reason they think people should consider making a planned gift to the ZSM. Their dream is for the Zoo to transform so much that it becomes an entirely new experience for future generations. They feel an added benefit of joining the Simba Circle is that it's so simple to do. "We weren't asked to give a specific amount," says Mary. "We just said we want to make a bequest; didn't even need to use an accountant."
Mary affectionately recalls bringing their six children to the Zoo "almost every day when they didn't have school." Bruce, the Johnsons' son, knew the Zoo so well that he held the coveted position of Zoomobile driver during his high school and college days. When Richard retired 18 years ago, he and Mary became Zoo Pride volunteers-and they remain so to this day. Together they have logged over 7,000 volunteer hours at the Zoo. Much of that time has been spent in the Karen Peck Katz Conservation Education Center where Mary is well-known for using her visual-art talents to assist children in art classes. To prove just how connected the Johnsons are to the Zoo, they even had a Zoo-catered party in the Flamingo Café to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.