Vancouver woman leaves $80,000 for rescued primates

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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Oregon Primate Rescue

Jean Barr never viewed the 16 permanent residents in the Oregon Primate Rescue up close or spoke with the nonprofit organization’s founder about her mission. From a distance, the Vancouver woman’s posthumous $80,000 donation to the primate rescue is as mysterious as the behavior of the monkeys that inhabit it.

It was from a distance — watching a public broadcasting special on the Oregon Primate Rescue — that Barr gained a deep-enough appreciation for the monkeys to write them into her will.

“She never liked the fact monkeys were used for experiments,” said Trudy Banks, executor of Barr’s estate.

Barr, who died of lung cancer in May 2010 at age 71, left $80,000 of the proceeds from the sale of her Vancouver home to the Oregon Primate Rescue, Banks said. On Monday, Banks delivered the money in the form of a cashier’s check to the rescue’s founder, Polly Schultz, at the operation’s secluded, 28-acre sanctuary near Longview.

The donation constituted a “blessing” in these difficult economic times, Schultz said, noting the rescue ran for 13 years off private donations and earnings from her husband Skip’s job. Skip has since retired.

“It was almost like there was an angel out there,” Schultz said, noting she teared up at the sight of the check. “It’s absolutely the most amazing thing. I just got goose bumps.”

Barr’s daughter and a handful of other relatives also received money from Barr’s estate. Barr also left behind $20,000 for a shelter that cares for dogs and cats that would otherwise be put down.

Attempts to locate Jean Barr’s daughter for this story were unsuccessful.

Barr worked as a costume maker for MGM Studios in California when she was young, Banks said.

“She was a strange, different lady,” Banks said, describing Barr as a casual acquaintance. “She wanted things done the way she wanted things done.”

Barr’s parting gift to the monkeys at the rescue “pulled at my heartstrings,” Banks added.

The Oregon Primate Rescue opened in 1998 in Dallas, Ore., before relocating to Longview in 2008. The land the rescue organization is on came from a private donation.

Barr’s generous final act will pay for emergency veterinary care, bedding, food, toys and an outdoor playground that will be named in her honor, Schultz said. Barr’s donation is the largest private donation the rescue has received, not including the initial land donation.

The monkeys Schultz cares for either were abused or came from science labs. The Oregon Primate Rescue has black-handed spider monkeys, long-faced spider monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys and java macaque monkeys, among others.

They each require constant stimulation, lest they become bored. One of their favorite pastimes is watching “Animal Planet,” Schultz noted.

Schultz estimated her food bill for the monkeys runs $200 per week and the beds of shavings they sleep on runs her and her husband $750 every three months. Propane used to heat their sanctuary costs $1,000 per tank. Often, they must buy three tanks during the winter.

For Schultz, caring for the monkeys is an “extreme passion.” She has not taken a vacation since 1998. She does not regret her decision, she said.

“Some of (the monkeys) have been through so much,” Schultz said. “They need a place to live out the remainder of their life with dignity and enjoyment.”

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; www.facebook.com/raylegend; ray.legendre@columbian.com.