On June 19 at 12:30 p.m., the Lake Superior Zoo will unveil a memorial plaque honoring Dick “Papa Bear” Simmons and his many years of friendship with our polar bears, Bubba and Berlin. We hope the public will join us for this event and help us celebrate this special relationship and the many wonderful memories that were created by Dick Simmons’ devotion to the bears and to the zoo.
Dick Simmons was a fixture at the Polar Shores exhibit beginning with Bubba and Berlin’s first introduction to the zoo on Zoo Year’s Eve 1990. Over the course of the next 16 years, Dick and Bubba could be seen playing ball, while Dick talked to the enthralled visitors, many of them children. All were rewarded with Dick’s famous “I played ball with the polar bears” sticker.
There were many times when he would suspend whatever plans he had for that day in order to make a special appearance for a visitor who had heard about this remarkable friendship.
Although Dick was not able to play ball with Bubba for the last two years of Bubba’s life, their friendship never waned, and Dick’s call of “Bubba Bear” from the viewing deck was always rewarded by the big bear standing up and looking over to see his buddy.
The dedication on June 19 will include a keeper talk by the polar bear keeper, a special treat for Berlin and an opportunity for Dick’s family to share some memories. We encourage everyone who experienced this wonderful friendship to come and share in this celebration.