After a trip to Spain and several other diversions, I came back full force last week, with my faithful camera guy Ray, to shoot a couple of players in the "Fanny in Pawtucket" story.
Bill Mulholland was the head of the zoo during the Fanny imbroglio. Aaron Wishnevsky was one of Fanny's greatest fans and was active in getting her into the Black Beauty Ranch instead of a theme park/sanctuary in California.
It was obvious that Aaron and his late wife Pat were some of Fanny's greatest supporters. They visited her regularly during her 35 year stay at Slater Park and then a few times once she moved to Texas. Aaron was on her relocation committee. Marine World Africa USA, which was recommended by Loretta Swit was the front runner for her disposition. But no one had seen it. Aaron and Pat flew out to the site and were discouraged by what they saw. "It was like a zoo," he said. "Our Fanny would have to perform and be chained to a bunch of other elephants while she was there. It just wouldn't work." So he flew to TX and drove a couple of hours to Murchison after landing in Dallas for a site visit. What he saw lifted the clouds. "The animals could roam there. They had huge pens for the elephants (There was only one at that point.) and she'd be outside wandering around and swimming and grazing all the time." When he got back to Pawtucket, he convinced the council that there was no contest for her new home.
Bill Mulholland said he was frustrated due to lack of funds and commitment. He had repeatedly proposed plans to upgrade the zoo, but they always became stalled. It didn't help that the city's mayor was under indictment for corruption. "The City was at a standstill," he said. "No matter what we wanted to do, we were stymied. And things were at a crisis point."
While we were at the office, Cindy, the clerk, said that she remembered that when Fanny died in 2003, callers flooded the phones immediately. "They were all devastated," she said. So we shot her, too. And once again, came up with the same conclusions. Pawtucketers loved their elephant. When Aaron referred to her, he always used the term, "Our Sweetheart."
This emotion is raw. It's real. It's unbelievably powerful. People, when they speak of that time, don't focus on their hostility toward their opponents. They focus on their love for Fanny. It can change your life.