A Farewell for Belle
In 1953, after 28 years of unflagging dedication to her beloved Zoo, Belle Benchley retired. When she announced her plans to the board of trustees, they protested. “Mrs. Benchley, the San Diego Zoo without you is unthinkable.” But she replied, “I’m sure the Zoo will be around long after I’m gone. After all, I brought a lot of people working here up from pups, and saw to it that they learned their lessons well.”
She was given an elaborate send-off dinner party, with more than 800 people attending from all over the world to wish her well. Her gift from all her friends at the San Diego Zoo was a three-month trip around the world. She would be able to visit the zoos she had worked with over the years, as well as see the animals she loved in their wild habitats.
Of course, she would never really be far from her life’s work with the Zoo. She continued to give talks to community groups—something she had become quite comfortable doing, after taking over that duty from Dr. Harry all those years ago—and she came to visit the Zoo often for the rest of her life, bringing her sisters, her son, and especially her granddaughter, Laurel, who also loved animals.