Eric and Barb Youngquist have been Lincoln Park Zoo members for 38 years, but their association with the zoo stretches back further than that. Eric remembers Marlin Perkins introducing him to the world of wildlife via television shows beamed to his boyhood home in Iowa. Barb visited the zoo as a youngster, traveling in from the west suburbs to spend time with Bushman and other amazing animals.
Given this shared history, it was little surprise they decided to become Lincoln Park Zoo members after moving to Evanston in the 1970s. “When we got married and began our lives as adults, it was just natural that we supported the zoo,” says Eric. “It was just something we expected from each other and from ourselves.”
This support continued over the years, as Eric worked—and recently retired—as chief electrician in Northwestern University’s maintenance department. After spending years as a social worker, Barb pursued her own career with animals and worked as a veterinary assistant at a Wilmette Animal Hospital before retiring in 2009. Throughout this time, they continued to make regular trips to Lincoln Park Zoo, enjoying visits with their favorite animals: meerkats, otters and apes.
To honor this legacy of support, the Youngquists and others who had been members for more than 30 years were invited to the grand opening of Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. They received a special introduction to the new urban ecosystem. “It just took our breath away,” says Eric. “We looked at each other and thought, ‘There will be days this will be so crowded you won’t be able to take this walk.’”
While the Youngquists were left impressed by the new Nature Boardwalk, the zoo’s enduring commitment to being free and open to all is what motivates their continued support. “The idea that it’s a free zoo—that’s just an incredible thing,” says Eric. “We actually feel it’s important that those of us who can support it financially do as much as we can to keep it a free zoo. It’s a beautiful thing to go there on a spring or fall day and see the zoo crowded. We want to see that continue.”