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Sacramento Zoo Director Mary Healy's Sudden Death Shocks Employees, Supporters

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Supporters and employees of the Sacramento Zoo are in shock after the sudden death of zoo director Mary Healy.

Those who knew her describe her as an excellent business woman with a sincere and genuine personality, matched by a warm smile.

"This was not expected, completely out of the blue and disbelief is the only word I can describe it," said deputy director Adrian Fowler. "A lot of very, very saddened people at the moment not just here, but around the world."

The executive director and CEO of the Sacramento Zoo for more than 14 years died on Thursday at the age of 61. She was on her way to the Galapagos Islands when she suffered a brain aneurysm. Later, she was declared brain dead, and then suffered a massive heart attack.

Healy took over the zoo in 1999 and oversaw the building of a full-scale veterinary hospital at the zoo. Under her guidance, the zoo renovated and built exhibits for scores of animals.

She was a nonstop fundraiser and the loudest cheerleader for the zoo.

"She loved birds of all feather and one of her great dreams was to bring penguins to the zoo," said head veterinarian Ray Wack. "We'll have to see if that happens."

Healy was known around the world as a zoological leader, serving on numerous boards and associations to make zoos and aquariums better all over the globe. She worked to make sure we all understand how important animals are to all of us and to our planet.

"She was a very, very friendly character that knew everything about the animal world," Fowler said.

A memorial will be held at a later date.

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