On July 15, 2011 William E. “Bill” Haast passed away at the age 100 .
Despite long hours and little financial assistance, Michael continued to work toward his goal of developing a major reptile collection and education center. His first experience with a venomous snake, a juvenile copperhead, left him in the hospital for three days and destroyed the skin and tissue on the end of one finger. Undaunted by the experience, Michael continued his interest in venomous reptiles. He soon began corresponding with Mr. William Haast, the owner and director of the Miami Serpentarium in Florida. Mr. Haast is one of the world’s leading authorities on venomous snakes. His work with snake venom has contributed to advancements in the medical profession. Through self-immunization, Mr. Haast has survived over 140 venomous snake bites and has saved 21 lives by donating his own blood to snake bite victims.
During high school vacations, Michael worked and studied with Mr. Haast at the serpentarium, learning reptile management and husbandry. Consequently, Michael began expanding his collection to include turtles, lizards and crocodilians. Combing his skills with a growing public interest in our natural world, the demand for Michael’s program keeps him traveling the country on a year round basis.
His life continues to inspire the many who love reptiles, had the pleasure of knowing him and the freedom life in America brings to those who strive to make a difference.
I will always be so very grateful to him and his family for their kindness through the years.
I will especially be grateful to Clarita for answering my many letters out of all the letters she received each year from young people wanting to meet her husband after all I was just a kid from Maryland among the many that read “Cobras in his Gardens “.
– Michael Shwedick