Kathi Travers: There was more to Mary than her smile

FROM THE ARCHIVES: In honour of Kathi's sudden death this week at age 69, here's a column she wrote in February 2017 about one her favourite fellow animal welfare advocates, Mary Tyler Moore.

Last week, while sitting at the Coast Coffee Garden, I happened to get word that an old friend had passed away. It hit me like a brick.

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When I shared the news with the others at the table, I got a bit upset because they did not feel nor react the way I did. My Jo quickly reminded me by telling me I had a relation with this remarkable lady and they didn't. With tears in my eyes, I had memories, not of a superstar, but of my friend Mary.

I want to tell you about Mary Tyler Moore. I met her and her husband Robert many years ago, when I was working for a animal welfare organization. She was extremely supportive of the work being done by the organization.

At the time, I was director of exotic animals. Mary and I became friends because we had something in common, our love and respect for animals. She and Robert had a farm in upstate New York with many rescued critters including horses and dogs. "No" was not in her vocabulary when it came to helping an animal.

With all the smiles in her public life there was also sadness. She suffered from Type 1 Diabetes. I mentioned that my sister Millie also had the dreadful disease. In no time, a signed copy of the new book Mary had written about the disease was received by Millie. That is the kind, thoughtful person that Mary was.

One sunny day I received a call from Mary. She and Robert were in L.A. I was living under the Hollywood sign at the time. I had just talked to them when I was in New York City two weeks before. Mary had some free time to spend and I had a great idea on how we might have some fun.

I called my friend Tippi, who has a home and an amazing, animal sanctuary in the canyon. I wanted to check if anyone would be at her place that afternoon since she often had public tours. I asked whether I could come out with a couple of friends if it could be a private visit. Tippi had no idea who I was bringing but trusted me. I called Mary back at her hotel suite and told her to throw on some jeans and a T-shirt with comfy clothes, no make up.

On the way to our play date, I asked her driver to stop at a grocery store. We picked up two watermelons. Mary and Robert were very puzzled. We continued to the canyon just north of the city.

I wanted Mary to have a happy time without media observing and judging her. My heart shone as the smiles and laughter never seemed to stop as we all enjoyed our day with the animals.

So, what about those watermelons? Tippi's two elephants were thrilled with their new treats. Mary got to feed one to each elephant. They promptly smashed and devoured them. Giggles were non-stop with eyes so big in amazement.

A positively wonderful day was had by all. I will always cherish it as the day I brought joy and laughter to my friend Mary.

Can I tell you that Mary did turn the world on with her smile? For me, I was turned on by her heart, true kindness and generosity. She loved all the creatures that we share this earth with.

With a tear in my eye and sadness in my heart, rest in peace, my dear friend.

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