Carlyn & Irving Ungar

Irving Ungar recalls the childhood memory of the first time he spotted the big cats at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Kovler Lion House. How it seemed like the lions were “just a leap away.”

He was thrilled. He was scared. He loved it. That big-cat memory has stuck with him throughout most of his 96 years, just like countless other memories that have prompted Irving and his wife, Carlyn, to continuously support the zoo as members since 1977.

“We feel that the zoo is something unique,” says Irving. “Along with the Museum of Science and Industry and The Field Museum, these places make Chicago an important city, so you have to support them.”

At Lincoln Park Zoo’s Annual Meeting in June, a number of individuals who’d been members for thirty or more years were honored for their commitment. Irving and Carlyn were among them. “We appreciate all of Lincoln Park Zoo’s members, but those who have supported us for decades are particularly cherished,” says Senior Director of Annual Giving Kate Fridholm. “Members like the Ungars personify the zoo’s longstanding role in the lives of generations of Chicagoans.”

The pair, married for 72 years, have always lived in Lincoln Park. The zoo has been an integral part of their entire lives. The Landmark Café is where Irving first discovered Cracker Jack. Carlyn used to take her young children to see the seals being fed.

Both were thrilled when the underwater-viewing window was added to the Kovler Sea Lion Pool. Both were proud when they took their grandchildren—native to the steamy south—to the first ZooLights and awed them in a winter wonderland.

“It’s important that the zoo is a large area devoted to education right in the center of the city,” says Irving. “It’s easily reached and always free.”

“I am a nature lover of all kinds, and wildlife is a part of nature,” adds Carlyn. “I have always enjoyed being outdoors and having a nice place to walk around.”
When asked how long he’s supported Lincoln Park Zoo, Irving has an interesting reply—“Since pony rides were a nickel.”

There are no longer pony rides here. And the Ungars walk a little slower these days. They don’t get to the zoo as often as they’d like. But back in June before the Annual Meeting, Carlyn and Irving were excited to tour the newly opened Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, the latest in a long line of projects made possible by support from members like them.