John Ball Zoo names new bald eagle in memory of treasured educator

John Ball Zoo announces that they will be honoring the legacy and memory of Ruth Jones-Hairston by naming their new bald eagle ‘Ruth’.

Ruth Jones-Hairston, who passed away in June of 2019, was an important part of Grand Rapids and the John Ball Zoo community. As an educator, she was both a teacher and principal in the Grand Rapids Public School District. She worked hard to make sure every child knew they were important and could succeed. In retirement, she started Judah Educational Consultants.

Jones-Hairston served on the board for John Ball Zoo, where she inspired and helped found the Zoo’s JUMP program. She envisioned the children and families of Grand Rapids being able to enjoy the Zoo regardless of means or income level. Since it started, this program has allowed hundreds of thousands of families to enjoy the Zoo and helped make us a Zoo for all in the community.

“Naming the bald eagle after Ruth is a great way to honor someone who started an inclusive program at the Zoo and exemplified our values of Conservation, Education, Community, and Celebrate,” said Mike Lomonaco, Chief Community Engagement Officer for John Ball Zoo.

Zsanara Hoskins, Ruth’s daughter, commented about this special naming. “What an honor. Our mother represents everything that the eagle symbolizes and more! It is touching to know that her life, her beliefs, her “walk”, touched the lives of so many including the staff and community of John Ball Zoo so much so that they would want to honor her this way. We can’t wait to visit Ruth the eagle as a family at the Zoo.”

A fun fact is that Jones-Hairston’s first school where she was a principal was Henry Paideia Academy and their mascot was the eagle.
Ruth, the bald eagle, is now in the bald eagle habitat near the Living Shores Aquarium at the Zoo. This bald eagle was hurt in the wild and came to John Ball Zoo from Wings of Wonder Raptor Sanctuary located in northern Michigan after a two month rehab. Ruth can now fly, but one wing still has issues and causes her to tire too quickly to survive in the wild.

Guests will see that Ruth looks different than Bea, the other bald eagle in the habitat. This is because Ruth is only 3 years old and still has her juvenile feathers. These will molt into adult plumage in the next couple of years.

“We are excited for guests to see and learn about Ruth, the bald eagle, on their next visit to John Ball Zoo,” added Lomonaco. “Like Ruth Jones-Hairston, Ruth the bald eagle will help educate the community to appreciate wildlife, with grace and beauty, while also educating on the role John Ball Zoo plays in the saving of wildlife and wild habitats.”

John Ball Zoo is located on Fulton Ave., one mile west of downtown Grand Rapids. For more information or (616)336-4301.