lionhead club memorial page

In Memory Of Jo Anne Statler

May 16, 1930 – June 23, 2004  

The Lionhead world lost a very special person, in the passing of  Josephine Anne Statler, of Britt, Minnesota, at 8:30a.m.on June 23, 2004 at the age of 74.  Jo Anne, as she was known to all of us, was at a rabbit show, surrounded by her many friends, and enjoying what she loved most ~ showing her rabbits. 

Jo Anne loved animals and spent her early life showing champion Quarter Horses, where she had a keen eye for fitting and exhibiting.  She was a judge for many stock shows, taught riding lessons, and exhibited sheep and dairy goats.  She exhibited and judged dog obedience and showed Dachshunds.  She began her rabbit showing with the Dutch and Netherland Dwarf breeds.  She was a rabbit promoter in her local area, working to provide rabbits shows for the youth and was active in her county fair.  She started, encouraged and shared her expertise with everyone interested, especially the youth. 

While attending the famous Crufts Dog Show in England, in 2000, Jo Anne was shown a magazine with a Lionhead rabbit on the cover.  She immediately made arrangements to have Lionheads shipped to her rabbitry upon her return.  This was the beginning of the Lionhead breed in the United States.  Jo Anne introduced America to this popular breed with the shipment of these original rabbits.  She started many individuals throughout the country, in the adventure they would have with the little maned rabbits she so adored.  A staunch supporter of the Lionheads, she looked to the future when ARBA would recognize them.  

Jo Anne wanted to obtain a Certificate of Development and to get the Lionheads recognized by the ARBA, but several factors held her back, including her health.  She made the decision that this task was too much of an undertaking to do alone.  She would leave that up to others, but her love for this breed never ended and those who had the privilege of knowing Jo Anne were lucky to have seen her determination and fortitude in going forward to promote the Lionheads. 

Jo Anne had no immediate family, other than her dear friend of 50 years, Jean Jasinsky, who she considered her sister and who shared in her passion of animals.  She considered her huge circle of friends in the rabbit world her family and she was loved by everyone.  She will be missed by many and we give her thanks for introducing the Lionhead to all of us.  We now continue her passion to see them passed into breed status by ARBA. 

In Jo Anne’s honor, her longtime friend, Jean Jasinsky, set up a traveling award that was presented to the North American Lionhead Rabbit Club, in 2005.  The Statler Memorial Class consists of 4 animals from the same sire or dam and is judged at the Lionhead National Show each year.  This prestigious plaque is awarded to the breeder who wins the class on overall consistency and quality of the 4 animals presented.  Jo Anne will always be remembered as the first importer of this fancy little rabbit into the United States and the woman who started us all on this journey.

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In Memory Of Bob Whitman

November 11, 1953 – June 10, 2009 

Bob Whitman loved odd and unusual things and it was this love for the unusual that inspired his interest in the Lionhead Rabbit.  He was instrumental in bringing Lionheads into the U.S. from England beginning in 2001. Shortly after his second shipment arrived, he secured a Certificate of Development for the breed with the ARBA, in line behind Arden Wetzel and Gail Gibbons. He was fascinated with these animals, loved the many beautiful colors they came in and tried to get the ARBA to accept all the varieties like they did in England. 

Bob worked to help form the NALRC in the early years and served as the first Vice President. In October 2002, he became President serving through 2004.  He had one of the largest Lionhead herds in the United States and spent many years promoting the breed.  He is a life member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association and was serving as ARBA District 4 Director at the time of his death.  He had several health issues in the last 3 years and decided to relinquish his C.O.D. for the Lionheads so that those following could go forward.  

Bob was a man of research.  He liked to think!  He spent his life collecting rare books and artifacts and researching the unknown.  He spent hours on the computer and on the phone learning about the Lionheads and discovered that as early as the 1960’s there were reports of Lionheads appearing in litters along the French Belgium border.  These were not Dwarf Angoras, but Lionheads. This was the first mutation in rabbits since the Satin fur gene became known.  He is the author of one of the most wonderful informational books on the origins of domestic rabbits entitiled, Domestic Rabbits & Their Histories.   

Bob introduced the Blanc D’Hotot, now known as Hotot, to the United States in July 1978.  In October 1978, he presented 11 animals before the ARBA Standards Committee and in March 1979, the breed was accepted with the official Standard being printed in the Domestic Rabbits.  It took only one presentation and less than 1 year to have a new breed accepted!  Criteria have certainly changed since then for the acceptance of new breeds into the Standard of Perfection. 

He was very active in the ARBA library and was served on the Library Committee.  He was also an active member of the Rare Breed Association.  His passion and newest imports were Dwarf Checkers, Colossals, and Giant Cavies that weigh about 20 pounds.  He also bred the unique Enderby Island rabbits and other rare and unusual breeds.  He operated Rare Bits & Pieces, a rabbitry specializing in endangered and new breeds from other countries. He was a founding member and current officer of the Thrianta Club.  He was also instrumental in founding the Lop Club of America.  

Other than rabbits, he had a special devotion to horticulture and collected plants from many lands in his world travels.  At the time of his death, Bob was the Executive Director of the Botanical Gardens in Beaumont, Texas, and was writing for several periodicals, including the Rabbit council of New Zealand Newsletter, Fur and Feathers, and Domestic Rabbit.  His research and writings will be read by many generations to come and his expertise in the rare and unusual will always be recognized and admired.

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In Memory of Kim Croak

June 20, 1964 – July 27, 2010  

This is the tale of a wonderful friend, loving wife and mother, adoring daughter, and fierce competitor.

Kimberly Ann Croak, 46, born June 20, 1964 in Illinois to Sherri Temple (IL) and Larry Strawser (PA), was killed in an automobile accident July 27, 2010. Kim and her husband Darrel were running errands when about 1 mile from their house a loose dog ran out in front of Kim’s SUV. Being an animal lover to the end, Kim swerved into the opposite lane to miss the dog but an Amish buggy coming in the other direction made her swerve back. At this time she lost control of her vehicle and collided with a telephone pole, killing her on impact. Kim leaves behind her parents Sherri and Larry, seven siblings, husband Darrel, and sons Travis Miller and Darrell Horcher.

Kim began her journey in the rabbit hobby at the age of 16 forming Kim’s Cuddly Kritters Rabbitry and has been a member of the ARBA on and off for the last 30 years. Kim got her love of animals from her mom who is a very success trainer of German Sheppard Service Dogs. Kim would always bring news of her mom’s accomplishments to the shows and the pride in which she took in her mom was obvious in her voice and beaming smile. Kim moved to PA from IL in the early 90s buying a home at the base of the Tuscarora Mountains where she could continue her passion for rabbits and other animals in the midst of Amish country. Over the years Kim maintained: horses, cows, chickens, ducks, exotic birds, dogs, cats, goats, and even a pet turtle but her main love was her rabbits.  

Like many aspects in her life, Kim preferred to just jump right into things and learn as she went.  Kim loved to tell of her greenhorn days on the farm.  If you were lucky enough to know Kim you were probably lucky enough to hear the story of her loose pet bull. Noticing the bull was missing from its pasture, Kim immediately drove her truck over to the neighboring farm to retrieve her wayward pet. When she gets there, the farmer asks what she brought to get him home. Looking around she realizes she is quite a ways from home, she didn’t have a stock trailer, heck, she didn’t even bring a halter! The farmer taking pity on the clueless blonde woman fashioned a halter and tied the bull to the truck so he could trot beside the truck as Kim drove. At first the plan was working well and Kim thought they would make it home in no time but a bull’s patience is fleeting and soon he began ramming his head into the side of the truck. As the distance increased so did the force with which the bull protested and by the time Kim got home, her poor truck was demolished but the bull was back home and safe. 

After moving to Pa Kim met her current husband Darrel Croak who became the yang to her ying and was the missing puzzle piece to her life. It has been said that Kim was the brains and Darrel was the brawn to the marriage but however you look at it, it was very clear that those two were an inseparable pair. At Kim’s service Darrel remarked that he had lost his team mate and that is exactly what they were, partners that relied on each other like no one else. With Darrel’s help, they ran a very large rabbitry averaging 150-200 rabbits at any given time. Kim has bred and shown many types of rabbits such as Triantas which close friend Valerie Knowles tells me, Kim had the first granded Thrianta in the country, Sunny D. Kim also had, Flemish Giants, Mini Rex, Netherland Dwarf, Holland Lops, Dutch, Mini Lops, English Lops, and Tans. Close In 2001 Kim purchased what would soon be the mainstay of her rabbitry, Lionheads. Kim was one of the first breeders in PA to actively work with the Lionhead breed and would eventually rise to be a nationally recognized breeder and in 2008 was awarded a COD for their development. Kim’s COD colors consisted of: Silver Marten, Otter, BEW, Chestnut, and Lilac Tort. This may seem like quite the hodge podge of colors but that was exactly what Kim was known for, we affectionately called her the Queen of Color. If you could produce it, Kim had it. Kim was very active in showing and had consistently been in the top 10 of North American Lionhead Club sweepstakes points for the last several years including an assortment of first place finishes in her many variety endeavors.  

Just recently Kim expressed to me a desire to be in more of a leadership position within Lionheads. She had already had experience as a 4H Leader, active in PaSRBA, ran the rabbit barn at the York County Fair, and was a charter member of the Cumberland County Rabbit Club here in Pa. As a matter of fact, CCRC has created the Kim Croak Memorial Award in her honor. It will benefit youth and 4H members that show a competency in the areas of showmanship, community service hours, demonstration skills, and participants must have bred at least one litter. Kim is credited with getting countless youth breeders interested in rabbits including close friend Natalie Knowles. Natalie’s mother Valerie remarked that Kim was known to draw a crowd at a fair, “wherever a crowd of people were, that’s were Kim was”. She would invite people to go to the fair and from there a new rabbitry would be born because people would get hooked on rabbits, all because of Kim. Kim had maintained a lower personal profile within our breed however. We talked on several occasions about wanting to reach out to the west coast breeders and get more involved in club affairs. If you asked someone to describe Kim they might say fighter, tiger, pistol, headstrong, survivor, and believe me, she was all of those. But Kim was also a very private person and didn’t allow a lot of people see the more cautious and humble side of her. Kim volunteered to be Director of our state club, Keystone Lionhead Rabbit Club and also volunteered her time to the North American Lionhead Rabbit Club National Exhibition. For the select few of us that were inside Kim’s guarded outer shell we found a true friend that was loyal, a great listener, who never judged, was generous and kind. One of the first things I thought of when I had been informed of her accident was, I can’t believe I will never sit in her kitchen and bs again, never to carry on like junior high school girls, never eat her home cooking, never again hear Kim scream, “MISSY! Oh no you didn’t!!” Kim leaves behind a wealth of family and friends that will miss her dearly and that are mourning the loss of a life taken way too soon. -Melissa Kelly

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