Mary Ann Tous
In Mary Ann's words:
Being a close relative of Ila Loetscher, and having spent much time at her home on South Padre Island, I have always felt a strong connection to both the woman and to her work. For that reason, I founded The Turtle Lady Legacy so that neither she nor her accomplishments would ever be forgotten. Much has been written about her over the years in a multitude of publications but, as family, my story is personal.
Ila’s passion for life was her driving catalyst which explains why she was a woman of so many historical firsts. She proudly marked the road for others to follow, following a well-drawn plan that was filled with her natural exuberance and respect for life on this planet.
As her endearing public exposure grew, so did her fame. She appeared on many popular TV networks, including ABC and NBC. Moreover, The Tonight Show, The Today Show, and Real People invited her to be a guest which served to heighten the press coverage, resulting in numerous featured stories in far-reaching magazines.
Moreover, she was featured in National Geographic magazine as well as in Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine (most notably, “The Turtle Lady” by Mary Bigony in the May issue of 2001). She was highlighted in 1982 by the The Enquirer and, in Jacques Cousteau’s Almanac, he knighted her as a wave maker for her pioneering efforts, stating that “she’s probably done more than any other human being to focus attention on the plight of the Kemp’s or Atlantic Ridley, the smallest, the rarest, and most endangered of sea turtles.” Her waves of attention to her cause knew no boundaries and crossed continents.
In 1984, Image Force Inc. from Beverly Hills, California made a documentary about Ila for Fuji TV and sent a crew to film her at her home. It was an excellent documentary of her giving her educational presentation with all of her sea turtle children outside in their salt water tanks that were located in her back yard.
This program was aired nationally in Japan and earned thumbs-up reviews. It also generated fan mail from all over the world, some from as far as Africa, Asia, and England. Amazingly, the mail found its way to her mailbox even though some were addressed only to “The Turtle Lady” of South Padre Island, Texas. So, without a zip code or address the fan mail miraculously arrived. Yes, the letters found their way to her from all over the world. When I asked her if she read and answered each one, her answer was “You bet I do.”
“If this mail can find its way to me, so will my sea children that are imprinting on our sandy shores, in need of no physical address, with only nature as their stamp to find their way back.” Then, as she looked out to the sea, she uttered those words that are forever embedded in my memory, “Keep a look-out for my sea turtle children for they will return.” And I believed her every word.