Ivan’s ashes could find a final resting place in Tacoma at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, according to the famous ape’s original owners.
Ron Irwin, whose father who bought the infant Ivan from animal traders nearly 50 years ago, said his family and zoo officials are meeting Friday to begin working out details of how to best to memorialize the beloved gorilla. They’ll also discuss the possibility of some sort of public ceremony, he said.
“I don’t really know what sort of a memorial it might be, and I don’t think the zoo does either,” Irwin said. “But we’ve come to an agreement that Point Defiance is probably the best place for it.”
Kris Sherman, a spokeswoman for the zoo, acknowledged that discussions are taking place but characterized them as “very preliminary.”
Ivan died Aug. 20 at Zoo Atlanta, where he’d lived since 1994. For 27 years before that, he was kept in a concrete-and-glass enclosure at the B&I Shopping Center, a circus-themed mall on South Tacoma Way, where he was viewed with a mixture of fascination and pity by a generation of shoppers.
Ivan’s death brought an outpouring of emotion from Tacoma-area residents, many of whom said they’d been deeply affected by visits to his cage, where he would look intently into their eyes.
Ivan also was loved in the South.
Zoo Atlanta has scheduled a public memorial service for Ivan at 11 a.m. Sept. 8 in the zoo’s African Rain Forest exhibit. Friends and fans are invited to share well-wishes, cards and photos for a memory board to be displayed outside Ivan’s habitat.
Earl Borgert, the grandson of the man who bought Ivan, said he and his sister Tina will fly to Atlanta for the memorial and will carry Ivan’s ashes back to Tacoma.
“Ivan was a member of the family,” Borgert said in an email. “The family is considering all possibilities to memorialize him.”
Irwin said Thursday that some local artists have expressed an interest in helping to design a memorial.
“Apparently there’s been quite an interest in the art community in doing something,” he said. “They and me and everybody are going to explore what there is out there that someone would do.”
Designing a memorial for a gorilla apparently is uncharted territory, Irwin said.
A bronze statue is one form the memorial probably will not take, he said.
“Can you imagine?” he said. “That would probably last about a month before somebody stole it.”