Carol Kirken, a beloved community activist in Rochester Hills, Michigan, was on safari with her family in Tanzania when a hippo attacked her on August 5.
"Having [passed] 75 years old, she was resolutely shooting for 100," an obituary reads on the Modetz Funeral Homes website. "She would have surely achieved it if not for this accident.
"Carol died quickly in the arms of her son Robert. We are shocked and saddened at her early departure from our lives."
Kirken had been posting photos of her African safari on Facebook, saying she saw so many beautiful animals, including hippos and bull elephants.
Hippo attacks on humans are rare and solid statistics are difficult to find. A report by the Wilderness Medical Society in 1995 estimated that between 200 and 300 people are killed each year by hippos.
The attacks are typically deadly in part because they happen in remote areas where quick access to medical care is uncommon. Hippos are considered herbivores, eating as much as 80 pounds of grass a day but their large teeth are used to defend themselves against other animals, including hippos.
Details about how Kirken was attacked were not revealed.
“She was just a rocket of passion and enthusiasm,” Randy Secontine, who served with Kirken on an advisory board to the YMCA, told the Detroit Free Press. "You just meet some people in life that invigorate others and Carol was one of those people. She inspires people with an enthusiasm that is exceptional. She never slowed down.”
Kirken did charity work for Crittenton Hospital, the Rochester Women's Fund and the North Oakland YMCA.
“Just shock,” Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett told WJBK, describing his reaction to the tragedy. “There are few people in the community that you think of that are absolute treasures and Carol is one of those in our community.”
A funeral is scheduled for Sunday, August 20.