This was my first snake bite and the first lesson for a slow learner. Years following I learned the necessity of caution before later dealing with large quantities of more venomous and deadly snakes. I was fortunate to have been afforded such lessons without suffering severe consequences. I now recognize this field as one that demands the utmost responsibility and caution.
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by: Lillian Martin, staff writer for
South Dade News Leader
Shown in photo is Lee Moore and Python stretched across a City of Miami Police car
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By: John Arnold and David Lyons
Miami Herald Staff Writer
In the late 1940’s Bill Haast began his efforts to bring recognition to what was then, mostly unknown qualities and benefits of snake venom in medical research. It was Mr. Haast's work at the famed Miami Serpentarium Laboratories that brought notoriety to the seemingly unlimited characteristics of different snake venom and the immunopotent reactions it has on the human physiology.
Mr. Haast's work demonstrated, though not properly recognized, that medical advancements can be more readily made with the collaboration between infield technicians and medical researchers.
Mr. Haast’s work has also influenced other pioneers of this field.
The late “fearless” Ronald Thomas Wagner worked for Bill Haast at the Miami Serpentarium. He was in route to follow his inspired dream to establish an institute for venom extraction when his life was ended in that infamous plane crash. Though his efforts where cut short on that fateful day, the many stories I heard about his adventures certainly played a role in the development of my ambitions.
Photo Courtery of Lee Moore, Sr. Archives
(Retyped for Clarity)
Fearless Ronald Wagner and deadly 10 ft. 2 inch Bush-
master (largest Viper in the world) Iquitos, Peru.
Later shipped to Bronx Zoo for a new record. Wagner
experienced 10 Viper bites. Ron had many years of ex-
perience handling reptiles in the Florida Everglades.
Once he jumped upon and captured a 7 ft. Alligator in
the water single handed. -(Armchair Adventurer)
This first edition of "Armchair Adventurer" is dedicated to Ronald Thomas Wagner who lost his life in a plane crash while in quest of his life long dream - searching for something new.
The world does not know the great "Would have been" it lost on June 5, 1962 when the Converted B-26 Bomber crashed in the Bush on the Northern coast of South America. The doomed plane was carrying Wagner, my German shepherd "Buck" and out cargo to Iquitos, Peru for the purpose of establishing our new business ventures and carrying out our childhood dreams so long planned together. I had tried to take Ron's place before the flight but he would not have it any other way even after the premonitions we both had received.
Everything was totally destroyed but miraculously "Buck" survived. Ron never regained consciousness and died as I and his Father and Uncle stood by his bedside. A night I shall never forget and the loss could have been no greater.
Ronnie and I had grown up, traveled and planned together. He was strong and fearless but gentle and kindhearted; truly a great and faithful friend. He faced and fought death many times with almost a charmed life have been bitten many times by poisonous vipers and once losing a finger from a 6 foot rattlesnake bite. It took a violent plane crash to end his life. It has been said that he had seen and lived more experiences in his 23 years than most in a lifetime.
Although Ronnie will never set up his reptile Venom extraction center in Peru which would have supplied a great world demand for medicinal purposes, he will always be remembered by his friends as a dearly loved friend who loved everything and everyone and never had an enemy.
Ironically I found a small metal box of Index cards in the plane wreckage which contained the names of my customers. The crash had sealed it shut so that its contents were still intact. With this I started from the beginning again from a complete financial loss with only a a miracle, a metal box and memory of a dear friend.
Later in my explorations of the jungles for new plants I was fortunate enough to discover one of the most beautiful bromeliads ever to be found. One that should carry a name worthy of the honor to whom it is due. The new discovery is recorded in the journals of horticulture history in the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. bearing the noteworthy name of Tillandsia Wagneriana. Ronald Wagner will forever be remembered by his friends and loved ones and all who see this magnificent plant which carries his name. Only those who knew him would understand my feelings.
Lee Moore’s Armchair Adventurer, 1965
Read about this account in
"THE ORCHID THIEF"