Friday, February 10, 2012

New England Aquarium penguin beguiles nursing home residents

Tuxedo-clad bird’s visit is a first

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Roast Beef and Sandra Ramsey-Sterling at today’s event

Roast Beef, an African penguin at the New England Aquarium, made a special visit today to a Haverhill nursing home.

Roast Beef is specially trained to take his show on the road. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
“They seemed to be thrilled and even after, as we were wrapping things up, they were calling us over to ask us questions,” said penguin exhibit manager Heather Urquhart.
The visit to the Hannah Duston Health Care Rehabilitation Center was prompted after a resident, Sandra Ramsey-Sterling, painted a mural of five penguins on a snowy background.
She said she made the painting for the 9-year-old daughter of one of the nurses. But after three weeks of work, the painting turned out better than she expected, said Ramsey-Sterling, who said she had been painting for 30 or 40 years.
So with the help of some of the nurses, she made poster copies of the painting and donated them to the aquarium, hoping they could be sold in the gift shop. Though the aquarium was unable to use them, they sent an ambassador -- Roast Beef -- to thank her personally.
Sending a penguin to a nursing home was a first for the aquarium; normally, he’s sent to schools and youth groups, where he can beguile children. But aquarium officials say people of all ages love the little birds who wear tuxedos.
Roast Beef, named after a penguin breeding colony off the coast of South Africa, was specifically trained to go off site, and, Urquhart said, he loves it.
“He’s Mr. Cool As A Cucumber,” said spokesman Tony LaCasse, “He does almost all of the events.”
About 40 residents and family members came to see the bird, and Ramsey-Sterling said the penguin, who was in a temperature-controlled plexiglass cube, did not disappoint.
“He was fabulous. Everybody’s been thanking me. It really made their day,” she said.
David L. Ryan of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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