If your best friend forever (BFF) is a herpetologist for a zoo, Gary has some advice for you. Be ready for some unusual adventures. Gary recently brought the newspaper account of one famous escapade to his new home, Vista Prairie at River Heights, in South St. Paul.
The 1963 stories picture Gary’s role in helping BFF Bob Duerr recover an 11-foot-long crocodile from St. Paul’s Lake Phalen. Bob got the call when someone spotted the croc and quickly surmised that it had been stolen from the nearby Como Zoo. Bob was the zoo’s expert in reptiles and amphibians at the time. Gary set the springtime scene, which was around high school graduation.
“Some kids drove their car right over the fence at the zoo and lassoed the croc from a moat filled with water,” Gary remembers. “Then they did a really dangerous thing. Of all the places to take it, Lake Phalen, the playground for the kids.”
When Gary arrived at the lake Bob was already in the water, in the process of capturing the croc. Bob suffered a nasty slash on his arm so Gary took over, as the photo shows, and subdued the croc until it could be transported back to safe surroundings.
An accomplished writer, Gary described the aftermath of their adventure in an essay about his life, “My first and second grade daughters dipped into their piggy banks and bought several copies of the morning papers, both St. Paul and Minneapolis, with the whole story, complete with lots of pictures. They cut out the stories and took them to school and boasted and bragged and went on about their dad.”
After a life of ups and downs, one of his four daughters recently helped Gary move into Vista Prairie at River Heights. At the age of 84, he feels secure and well cared for. Want to learn more about River Heights? Call Danielle at 651-326-6501.