LUFKIN, Texas (KETK) – For more than 50 years East Texans have cherished the Ellen Trout Zoo, and after many years one of their longtime employees is retiring.
Charlotte Henley the education director is retiring after 42 years, 10 months and four weeks.
“One best part was, of course, being around the kids,” said Charlotte Henley. “They’re always so enthusiastic and happy and it’s always fun to interact with them. Also, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know some really fabulous animals here at the zoo.”
When Charlotte first arrived, she applied for zoo educator, a position that did not exist, but something she had previously done at the Tulsa Zoo.
“Our city manager at the time was good enough to say ‘let’s try it for a while and see how it works’,” said Henley.
What started off as just an experimental position lead to a new building, and impacting the lives of 400,000 East Texas children.
“We’re always looking for new opportunities to interact with the school systems and with the public,” said Henley.
Built from the ground up, Henley has made a difference in the zoo and everyone who works there.
“She made this her whole career that she stayed here and built this entire program from a classroom and classes that were in just a small pavilion, to building this huge education center,” said Whitney Heckler, Zoo Educator.
While her time working at the zoo has come to an end, her work behind the scenes did not go unappreciated, and her spirit and dedication will never be forgotten.
“Her knowledge base and the things she’s gotten to do as she’s had her really long career here it’s something that we can’t replace,” said Heckler.
With Henley gone Heckler will be filling the void, though she says it will be sad to work without her “partner in crime”.