ENGLEWOOD -- Peggy Hauptman, founder and board chairman of Englewood Animal Rescue Sanctuary, better known as EARS, died Monday morning only three days after announcing her intention to build the sanctuary in DeSoto County.
Hauptman, 72, died in her home due to complications from cancer.
Friends said they will miss her, but her infinite sacrifice to animals and to people will live on.
"She was really a special person," said friend Rose Corcoran. "She wouldn't even kill a bee."
Corcoran said once, while visiting Hauptman's home, she showed Hauptman that there were a swarm of bees in her yard.
"I know, I'm feeding them. They're God's creatures," responded Hauptman.
Corcoran said not only did Hauptman love animals, but she loved people equally as well.
"We were very dear friends," Corcoran said. "The favorite thing with her was Christmas. I was the one that decorated her house. What I liked about her, she opened her house not just to animals, but to every single human being. I'm going to miss her a lot."
Hauptman was well known in the community and surrounding areas for her animal welfare and humanitarian ambitions.
She founded EARS, a care-for-life non-profit animal protection service, several years ago. Her dream was to build a seven-building sanctuary on 10 acres at Elm and Stewart streets in Englewood. But the project hit a snag due to permitting issues and opposition from neighbors.
And it was just last week, that Hauptman announced with jubilation that she had secured a site for the sanctuary in DeSoto County.
Jim North, director of the program, said that project will go forward in Hauptman's name and honor.
In getting the EARS concept off the ground, Hauptman worked closely with other area shelters.
She was well-liked and respected, said her colleagues, many of whom became close friends with Hauptman.
Sumner and Elsie Matthes, founders of Sarasota in Defense of Animals, said they had known Hauptman for about 10 years, and for the last five or six years, had the opportunity to work closely with her in hopes of getting the animal sanctuary started.
"We're truly devastated that she's gone," Sumner Matthes said. "She was without a doubt, in our opinion, the finest animal person we've ever known.
"She really believed in helping animals as much as she possibly could. For us there's nothing finer than that," Sumner Matthes added. "She was a down-to-earth, loving and wonderful person. We're going to miss her. I hope people understand what she did and what she was trying to do is a very wonderful thing."
Ken Slavin, from Cat Depot in Sarasota, said Hauptman was very supportive of the endeavors with his cat shelter.
"She was there to lend an ear and be supportive of that," Slavin said. "We were going through a very difficult time. We were all waiting for her dream to come to fruition. We were looking forward to helping her in any way we could. It was very disturbing to know that she's passed now. She was a wonderful lady."
Mary Lee Richey, executive director with the Animal Rescue Coalition of Sarasota and Manatee counties, agreed that other area shelters were happy to back Hauptman's efforts, and they were disappointed to hear that she would not finally get to see her efforts visualized.
"She had a deep and uncompromising commitment to animals," Richey said. "It's a very sad loss and the fact that they have been working so diligently getting her sanctuary up and running, it's sad she didn't get to realize that before she had to leave. She was so committed."
Warren Cox, former interim director of the Suncoast Humane Society in Englewood, said he was working with North to help shape and fulfill the idea of the sanctuary, when he met Hauptman.
"I only met her once," Cox said. "I was very impressed with her. She listened very intensively. I hope her dream will continue."
Mary Scaggs, a member of the EARS advisory board said she and Hauptman "hit it off immediately."
"She was just a fantastic woman, a very kind, considerate, a very humanitarian kind of person," Scaggs said. "I just enjoyed our communications."
In addition to her animal rights activism and accomplishments, Hauptman was recognized by Fortune magazine for outstanding business group sales production after being recruited by Penn Mutual Life Insurance as its female agent.
It was at that time she owned an art gallery in Denver that leased fine art to commercial establishments, a concept at the cutting edge.
Hauptman leaves behind her husband, Paul, who, Hauptman said recently in a statement, "always found room for one more at our table, even if they were four-footed."
Hauptman also leaves behind a daughter and a son.
You can e-mail Rachel Alexander at email@example.com.
By RACHEL ALEXANDER