Sometimes the most beautiful stories blossom out of the most tragic beginnings. Such was the case with a brave mother of three named Annie. Annie McNulty fell in love with Richard Zeleski and his charming blue eyes. Underneath his dashing exterior was a monster that terrorized Annie and her three children.
Her daughter, Laurie, described her mother as beautiful but with “impeccably bad taste in men.” Laurie, her brother, and her sister spent their childhood in fear of witnessing yet another horrific beating of their mother at the hands of Zaleski. That all changed just before Christmas of 1973 when he threatened all of them with a carving knife.
Annie Had Enough
At just 26-years-old, Annie bundled up her three children and took off in a borrowed car. They headed towards a rundown farm in the woods of New Jersey. Little did they know, this would become their fresh start and their sanctuary.
Like many women in those times, Annie had few marketable skills outside of managing a home and raising children. She began cleaning cages at the local animal shelter just to scrape by. After surviving trauma herself, Annie had a particular soft spot for the animals that nobody wanted. Kittens left to die, neglected dogs discarded and heartbroken, and even orphaned goats all pulled at Annie’s heartstrings.
Annie loved animals and could never say no to somebody in need. Whether they had hooves or paws, they all came home with her and found the love and care they deserved.
A Life Of Riches Is Determined By More Than A Number
Annie and her children didn’t have many material things, but they had a life richer than most will ever experience. The family had acres of their own to explore at their leisure. Plus, there was never a shortage of animal friends to play with!
Annie’s daughter, Laurie, had dreams of becoming an artist. Like her mom, Laurie was determined to create a life she loved. Laurie started a graphic design firm but remained at the farm to help her mom care for any animals that needed homes.
With her artistry as her fuel, Laurie vowed to someday buy her mom a bigger and better farm. In 2000, Laurie kept her promise. Annie had been diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1995. Sadly, Annie passed away just two weeks before Laurie’s 15-acre farm was purchased.
Annie’s Legacy Lives On
Annie was always an optimist. Despite knowing the health challenges she was facing, she had bought a set of dishes that said, “I wasn’t born in a barn, but I got here as fast as I could.” She may not have lived to see their new home come alive, but there’s no doubt that her spirit lives on. Annie is as alive as ever in her daughter’s compassion for animals, in the gratitude in an abandoned pig’s eyes, and in Laurie’s inability to turn down a little lost soul.
In fact, hundreds of animals now call Funny Farm Rescue their home! The farm is open to the public (for free – donations accepted) and is run by Laurie and her team of 100 amazing volunteers!
Laurie’s new book, Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals, documents her life on a rescue farm. It will make you laugh and tug at your heartstrings page after page!