We’re All Kids at Heart

When asked what he would like to see that he hadn’t already seen in his 98 years, retired WWII Veteran, Dr. William Hatt, wanted to get up close and personal to a zebra and a giraffe.  For many, this might be a difficult wish to grant, but not here in Bradenton, Florida.  It just so happens that Manatee County is home to the The Rye Road Giraffes.  In fact, I was fortunate enough to write a story about the incredible Landkas-Coronas family and the animals who have made their home at this sanctuary for over thirty-five years.  It so happens that they have two resident Zebras and, of course, the infamous Melman, the Giraffe.  Community Outreach is something the family strongly believes in and they couldn’t be more accommodating!


Accompanied by Activities Director Brandy Kwazniewski of Elan Manatee Assisted Living, where Dr. Hatt now resides, they were joined by his granddaughters Laura, Jillian and Kimberly, his great-grandchildren Laya, Olivia and Lyndon, along with several other Elan residents.  Everyone was treated to a private tour of the farm by the very lovely Crystal Landkas-Coronas and her father Serge, whose kindness is matched only by the love of their animals.

Dr. Hatt, a retired Orthopedic Surgeon, has had quite an illustrious career.  The Massachusetts, native graduated from Harvard Medical School.  Although he was offered an internship in his hometown, he decided he would like to live in Hawaii.  Off he went to train at Queens Hospital in Honolulu.  After training during the Korean war, he was sent to Key West, where he met and married his beloved late wife Joan, who was with Reynolds aluminum at the time.  As mentioned, a WWII veteran, he was at both the Murphy Army Hospital and Naval Hospital in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Several other career opportunities included Philadelphia and Louisville before he settled in Sarasota, where he remained on staff at Sarasota Memorial Hospital until he retired.


“Doc Hatt”, as he is affectionately known, is quite a social butterfly and is quite active, according to his family.  You could see how happy he was as he fed the zebras and the giraffe.  We had a few moments to chat and I must admit it is hard to believe he will be 99 years old come October 31st.  He makes no bones about the fact that he was born on Halloween, pun intended.

Looking more like a kid than a 98-year old man, he said with glee, “This is wonderful.  They asked me what I wanted to do.  Of course, I’ve seen these animals at zoos, but I’ve never been up close to them.”  How lucky am I to have shared this lovely moment watching these, dare I say, older adults giggling like kids, all made possible by The lovely Rye Road Giraffe family.  The day couldn’t have been more perfect and Doc Hatt couldn’t have been more charming.  I hope to get an invite to his Halloween/Birthday party!

For more information on the Rye Road Giraffes please visit their Facebook Page and stay tuned for events open the public.


Sheri Nadelman Photos

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