COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina naturalist Rudy Mancke, who shared his vast love for the outdoors with public television viewers and radio listeners for decades, died Tuesday.
Mancke’s wife, Ellen, told South Carolina Public Radio that the host of NatureNotes on radio and NatureScene on television died from complications of a liver disease while surrounded by his family. He was 78.
The folksy scientist with the wide-eyed appreciation for flora and fauna loved a quote from naturalist John Muir, who died in 1914: “When you try to touch one thing by itself, you find it hitched to everything in the universe.”
Mancke spent his life looking for those connections and then sharing them with anyone who would listen.
That audience was vast — NatureScene launched on South Carolina Educational Television in 1978 and ran for 25 years. Mancke headed all over the U.S. and sometimes overseas, sharing how everything in the natural environment was interconnected and beautiful in its own way.
His career continued with NatureNotes on public radio. In the one-minute segments, Mancke identified a picture of a plant or animal sent to him and told a story about it, or waxed philosophically about the changing of the seasons or the circle of life which eventually returns everyone back to the environment they came from.
Mancke was also a huge believer on how nature could heal the psyche and recommended a short walk in the woods or on the beach or through a meadow when things got overwhelming.
“When everything else is discombobulated, just take a little short walk — I’ve done this all my life — and that’s what I did on television programs for about 25 years … If you know the names of things and the relationships between them, it helps you realize you’re a part of something bigger than yourself,” Mancke told Columbia Metropolitan magazine in a 2021 feature.
Mancke grew up in Spartanburg as the eldest of four children. He graduated from Wofford College and took graduate courses at the University of South Carolina. He considered becoming a doctor before going the naturalist route.
Mancke was natural history curator at the South Carolina State Museum and a high school biology and geology teacher before his work with South Carolina Educational Television.
Mancke’s NatureNotes segments were pre-recorded and Mancke kept producing them as his health worsened. A segment on the fig beetle ran Wednesday, just hours after his death.
A listener in Myrtle Beach had sent him the photo and Mancke said it was a flower scarab beetle similar to a June bug. “Flower scarabs. They feed on nectar. They feed on fruit and they are amazing,” he said.
On Nov. 2, All Souls Day, Mancke spoke about how everyone ends up back where they started and how important that interconnectedness is.
“Death is a part of life of course. We all know that. That’s not good bad right or wrong. But that’s what the system is like on the third planet from the star we call the sun,” Mancke said. “And were a part of that system aren’t we? Death is a part of life because of the recycling system we’ve got. It doesn’t work if death doesn’t come into play.”