updated 09/25/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/25/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT
It was fitting then that Irwin's funeral was intimate. Those who loved him most gathered by a campfire and said goodbye. "Just as he would have wanted," says his father, Bob Irwin, "with everyone telling their favorite stories about him." A public memorial will take place Sept. 20 at Australia Zoo. That, says Stainton, will be more of a "celebration of his life. Steve would not have wanted us to have everyone around crying." Nor would he have wanted fans to avenge his death. Since Sept. 4, when Irwin was struck in the heart by a stingray barb while filming, at least 10 of the docile creatures have been found mutilated along the Queensland coast. Australian authorities suspect that fans are venting their anger by harming the wildlife Irwin spent his whole life protecting.
Thanks to his family, Irwin's animal-friendly philosophy will live on. His plans for a massive zoo expansion are under way. And his daughter Bindi will pick up her daddy's torch with her series Jungle Girl, which Stainton says will air in the U.S. in January. Irwin was filming a segment for the show when he died. Indeed, the day after the tragedy, in part in tribute to Irwin's indomitable spirit, his crew bravely set out to capture the ocean footage he had hoped for. With crystal-clear water and an abundance of marine animals, the shoot couldn't have gone better. "It felt like Steve had a hand in it," says Stainton. "Like he was looking down, saying, 'You've had a couple of tough days, so I'm going to make this easier for you all.'"