A summer job at the Mason amusement park is a rite of passage for many young workers, but for the Reece family of South Lebanon, it’s a family tradition.
The “family business” began with patriarch Bob Reece, who served as director of the Mason amusement park’s Wild Animal Habitat from 1977 to 1992.
Son Clay Reece worked as a rides operator for four years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, where he met now-wife Mary Reece, who served in various roles at the park from 1980 to 1994.
Their son, Taylor, became the third generation of the family to work at the park when he became a rides operator three years ago.
“It’s sort of been a natural process of us always being around Kings Island,” said Mary. “The Kings thing is really in our family.”
Bob Reece, 71, a real estate agent who now lives in Florida, was brought on to help the park transition its safari-style monorail tour through an animal preservation from a third-party vendor, Lion Country Safari, into a park-owned attraction.
The renamed Wild Animal Habitat occupied 125 acres and housed 300 animals spanning 35 species, Reece said.
As director, Reece oversaw a $2 million annual animal budget and a seasonal staff of up to 90 employees. In 1982 he helped form the Cincinnati Wildlife Research Federation, a partnership of Kings Island, the Cincinnati Zoo and University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
The organization researched ways to remove embryos of rare or endangered species to implant in surrogate mothers – cutting-edge work that rivaled that of many national zoos, Reece said.
Started in 1980
When she started at Kings Island in 1980, Mary Reece never expected she would one day become the daughter-in-law of Bob Reece, who she remembers as a no-nonsense member of the park’s upper management.
Back then, she was Mary Beth Hunt, a 16-year-old in search of a fun summer job she could carpool to with friends.
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