St. Dominic Village resident Charlotte Taylor, who is 88 years old, may not be Houston-born, but she and her husband shared a love for the zoo just like any native Houstonian would. Born in Beaumont, TX, she recalled some of the fond memories she has of the zoo, and spoke about how her husband was involved with then-director John Werler.
Coinciding with all the zoo improvements and renovations in the 1960s and ‘70s was the arrival of the zoo’s third and longest tenured director, John Werler. A well-known celebrity in town and appearing in weekly TV shows with all his favorite reptiles and other critters, Werler and his Swedish-born wife, Ingrid, ran the zoo as a family and were loved and respected by all. He was one of the longest serving zoo directors, retiring in 1993 after 30 years.
Werler was a talented individual who published his definitive book on Texas snakes just before he died in 2003. Taylor recalled a time when her husband and Werler were close colleagues.
“My best friend Ingrid was married to John, the then-director at the time,” Taylor said. “I think it was the snake house that brought us to the zoo because my husband loved snakes and he and John Werler had been in charge of the snakes at the Bronx Zoo in New York. Once, my husband found a snake and brought it to John. Before you know it, my husband’s name was on a plaque for contributing.”
The 1950s saw a boom in construction as the zoo added a primate house, bear moats, feline house, hippo pool, giraffe house, waterfowl pond, sea lion pool and concession area. The first major indoor exhibit building was the reptile house in 1960.
“I really liked walking down the reflection pool, it was beautiful,” Taylor said. “But my kids really liked to go look at the snakes with their dad. My husband was going to night law school at the University of Houston, and on the weekends it was zoo-time.”
While Taylor has not had the ability to visit the zoo in recent years, the same passion her and her husband had for the zoo is passed down to other generations within the family.
“My youngest grandchild is eight, and for the last four years I know his father has taken him to the zoo every Sunday,” Taylor said. “Just the two of them.”
Click here to check out what other residents wanted to share.