A 10-minute tribute video shown in the South Florida Museum’s Bishop Planetarium on Sunday proves how much Snooty the manatee made a deep connection with humans, especially folks from Manatee County.
Many people emerged with tear-stained faces after watching the video that Manatee Educational Television produced. The video, backed by tender music, was shown on the huge dome of the planetarium during Sunday’s memorial and open house to celebrate the long life of the beloved manatee.
Snooty literally saved my life. A few years ago when I was in a very dark place I considered committing suicide because there was no good left in my life. But then I remembered Snooty. Snooty is good. There is nothing bad about him. And it’s because of him that I sought help.
“Snooty was a big part of all of our lives,” Sofia Hopper said, her voice still shaking after she saw images of Snooty lift himself up to get closer to the humans who not only fed him carrots and lettuce, but scratched his head and talked to him.
Never miss a local story.
“I feel nostalgia, sadness,” Hopper said. “It’s sad. He left too early. I think they nailed it perfectly when they said he was the goodwill ambassador for Bradenton. He was the spokesperson. He was good. He was good in this town.”
Julie McNellis of Bradenton also cried when watching the tribute video.
“There were a few tears, and I wasn’t alone,” she said.
One of the reasons McNellis came to the memorial Sunday was that she had taken her children to see Snooty. But when she saw the Snooty tribute video something buried in her memory came to the surface.
“When I saw Snooty’s old tank in the movie, oh my gosh, it all came flying back,” McNellis said. “I had forgotten that my parents had brought me to see Snooty in the 1970s. He had such personality.”
The crowd estimate just halfway through the five-hour memorial was 1,000, said museum spokeswoman Jessica Schubick.
Snooty drowned on July 23
The world’s oldest manatee in captivity, Snooty drowned on July 23, just hours after his 69th birthday party, after he apparently followed fellow Parker Aquarium manatee tank-mates, Randall, Baca and Gale, into an underwater area used to access plumbing, and he couldn’t extract himself because of his size.
A bolted panel had became dislodged, allowing the smaller manatees into and out of the confined area, museum officials said.
In early September, an outside review determined that Snooty’s death could have been prevented. The museum also reported that aquarium director Marilyn Margold no longer worked for the museum.
But Sunday brought closure for many as they were given small good-fortune stones with Snooty’s picture, date of birth and date of death on them, got to sign a Snooty memorial log, pored over a picture display, visited the remaining rehab manatees, made Snooty puppets in a classroom and, finally, watched the video of Snooty’s amazing life with humans.
“We wanted a day when everyone could come to the museum for free to celebrate Snooty’s life and to learn about his legacy, which is the manatee rehabilitation program and conservation at the museum,” Schubick said.
“I’m very sad,” said Palmetto’s Brian Voye, who attended the memorial with his dad, Jerry Voye.
“I’ve been coming to Snooty’s birthday party for a number of years,” Voye added. “I didn’t get to go to it this year, but I’m here to pay my last respects.”
Jerry Voye lingered at the memorial display of pictures and documents about Snooty collected over his 69 years.
“The gentleness of the manatee that over the years I have observed,” Jerry Voye said when asked to share his thoughts.
Stephanie Smith, 25, came to pay her respects from Melbourne.
“Snooty literally saved my life,” Smith said. “A few years ago when I was in a very dark place, I considered committing suicide because there was no good left in my life. But then I remembered Snooty. Snooty is good. There is nothing bad about him. And it’s because of him that I sought help.”