A founder’s farewell

Sadly, yesterday Best Friends said good-bye to one of its founders, Estelle Munro.

I don’t believe, when we all started this sanctuary together, that she or any of us imagined it would turn into what it has. That a few friends helping a few animals would lead to a nationwide movement to Save Them All.

And I don’t believe any of us imagined the day we would have to say “good-bye” to Estelle.

I’m so glad she got to see what this dream grew into — what all of our hard work together became — before she passed away as a result of respiratory issues.

Estelle had polio as a child, and so, she used crutches all of her life. In the early days, ‘fundraising’ to us meant standing outside in all weather, behind tables, asking people who passed by to give to the animals. Despite her crutches, Estelle could stand there for as many hours as she needed to, approaching people with that deep sort of joy that some people have in their core. She was never worried about her own physical limitations — just the animals.

If you can believe it, on one occasion, a man actually attempted to steal the money Estelle had collected for the animals. He tried to take cash out of her collection jar! Because Estelle couldn’t easily stand, she grasped hold of a pole to steady herself, and grabbed the man’s collar with the other hand, scolding him until he dropped it. No one who saw it will ever forget that day! It became something of a legend.

If there was anything anyone thought Estelle couldn’t do because of her condition, it was never long before she cheerfully and gently proved them wrong.

But polio had affected her breathing, too. And so despite having helped us create Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, she had to leave it. The high elevation of the canyon was hard on her lungs. But being Estelle, she was perfectly cheerful about it. She announced that she and her husband would move to Hawaii, and asked what she could do to help us all from there!

She took on the job of responding to some of the 20,000 or so emails that Best Friends receives every year — something she could easily do from afar. You may have heard from Estelle a few times if you’ve ever written us! Always graceful, and always more interested in listening to others than in talking about herself, she was a star at that task.

And I’m delighted to say that she really was very happy in Hawaii.

But we received the bad news this morning

I like to think the sun shone brightly as she passed away. Because Estelle was one who fought darkness and who believed that the light would always break through. She would want the day to go on. She would want us to continue the work she helped start. She wanted to see every person and every animal — happy. As she was. Despite anything.

We’ll miss you, Estelle, with all of our hearts.