She Opened Her Heart to Pets (One in Particular)

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 11, 2008

Josephine Bensack Czapp, 89, who died of kidney failure April 6, grew up on a farm in Manassas and raised many kinds of pets, including horses and goats. In recent years, she became so close to her parakeet, Snookie, that she wanted to spend eternity with him.

Her request was to be buried with Snookie. If the bird went first, she wanted him stored in the freezer until she died. She appreciated the family comeback that if Snookie outlived her, a relative would buy a large freezer in which to keep her.

Snookie died in September after having served as Czapp's winged companion for about 10 years.

Czapp had formed a strong attachment to Snookie, often refusing to do anything without him perched on her finger. They ran errands together and visited her relatives. They exchanged confidences and traded pecks. Czapp did not like to leave her feathered friend alone.

She asked him, "Who's grandma's baby?"

The family joked that they would have her committed if he replied.

Snookie had entered her life in 1993, after the death of her husband, Michael J. Czapp. The couple had been married 56 years. The Czapps grew up near each other in Manassas, and they began dating after meeting at a dance. She spent much of her life as a homemaker; Michael worked as a carpenter.

Although Josephine Czapp had a passion for polka, pets were the love of her life. Her menagerie included horses, goats, dogs and a lizard. She had raised parakeets when she was younger, but Snookie, a handsome male with white, blue and gray feathers, captivated her like no other.

"After her husband died, she was on her own, and we bought her a parakeet cage for Christmas," said Cheryl Czapp, Josephine's daughter-in-law. "She balked at that, but somewhere along the line my sister-in-law took her to the store and they bought a parakeet."


For a time, he competed for Czapp's affections with Pickle, a parakeet that had belonged to a grandson. But Snookie became the enduring favorite.

The family placed a sign in her bedroom that said, "This place is for the birds."

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