Life of ‘Cheetah Lady’ at Six and Twenty


Submitted article



Members of The Six and Twenty Club met on June 3 at the First Christian Church in Wilmington with President Cindy Petrich presiding over the meeting and Mindy Henson as secretary.

Marsha Wagstaff was hostess and program leader

“Answering the Call of the Wild: The Remarkable Life of Cathryn Hosea Hilker” by Kathy Merchant is Wagstaff’s choice for her 2022 book.

Hilker grew up on a farm near Mason, Ohio with her parents and three older brothers. Her love of animals became evident early in her life.

She was often seen driving the by-ways of greater Cincinnati with odd passengers — like gorillas, mountain lions, cougars, and especially her beloved cheetahs.

She and her husband, Carl, funded a cheetah preserve in Namibia, Africa in 1995. She has been actively involved her entire life with animals, especially the cheetah and the Cincinnati Zoo.

She is conservation minded in her research and education of others. She set up the Angel Fund, named for her 1st cheetah to assist in conservation and funding all over the world.

Wagstaff shared facts about the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. So many animals and plants make the zoo a beautiful place to visit. It is a social center, has hosted operas, Festival of Lights, Zoo Babies, Shakespeare, and Zoo Blooms.

In 2021, the zoo hosted a 90th birthday party for Cathryn along a couple of her beloved cheetahs.

Wagstaff brought several of her granddaughter, Maura’s collection of “stuffed” zoo animals including a hippo, rhino, sloth, flamingo, etc. Members were asked to share info that Wagstaff had written for them.

Because of technical difficulties, Wagstaff had to email a CAMEO she had obtained from the cheetah zoo trainers which mentioned the Six and Twenty Club and the Hilker story.

Two of the current trainers filmed a hands-on encounter of one of the cheetahs, purring loudly while being brushed.

Members enjoyed lemon and chocolate cupcakes from Kairos Bakery along with chocolates, candied hibiscus flowers, and dark chocolate-covered kiwis.

Submitted article