03 May 2013
WAKULLA GREEN with Cynthia Paulson
Anne Rudloe – A Priceless Treasure
I first met Anne Rudloe on a balmy year-end evening on Alligator Point, a natural gulf-front paradise set against the quiet backdrop of vintage coastal north Florida. I had thumbed my nose at this unobtrusive Panhandle beach when I first moved to this area years ago from the award-winning, white sandy beaches of St. Petersburg. Now I know much better. Anne, a marine biologist and veteran queen of the coastal wilds had made her life and work here along this natural shore.
She adored these coastal marshes, seagrass meadows and miles and miles of wilderness coast. She and her husband, Jack, founded and ran a small aquarium and wrote books about the ocean. I knew their non-profit aquarium, Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, located north of the Ochlockonee Bay bridge in the little coastal village of Panacea. A dusky fog cloaked this particular New Year’s Eve and hung so thick it was hard to breathe as we stood in the toasty light of a beach bonfire. Anne emerged from out of the distorted shadows festively beautiful in a rich velvet dress of deep green. I stood there feeling small in damp jeans, wet hair with a big smile among a lot of people I did not know well. I had just heard she was diagnosed with cancer. Anne radiated such a calm happiness so real that I suddenly wanted to cry. It was the eve of many new chapters already being written.
The next few years progressed along as they inevitably do. My relationship with Gulf Specimen Marine Lab grew as did my friendships with Anne’s son, Cypress, a fellow Certified Green Guide, and with Jack, her husband. But Anne never seemed to be around when I came to the aquarium. I saw her only infrequently when she spoke at seminars I happened to attend. I knew Anne was a writer. I treasured my copy of Priceless Florida, a compendium that covers every natural ecosystem and native species of Florida. I knew she was published in National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine and other scientific journals. But it was not until I stumbled upon one of her intensely personal writings that directly touched my soul, did I feel such a sense of awe and appreciation for this exceptional woman. Something I am certain her friends already knew.
LOSS FELT BY MANY
When I received a telephone call one night late last April with the sad news of Anne’s passing, I felt a deep sense of loss. It was a loss felt by many. She was a magnificent blazing star that gradually turned into embers during the short time I had the honor to know her. Embers that glowed with such radiant warmth that grew smaller and smaller over the many months, but simply refused to burn completely out. Until blip, all of a sudden that day last April the splendid star was gone. Into the vast universe disappeared, but not from all our hearts.
Anne Rudloe had touched many in her time along this natural coast. She co-founded the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab with her husband, Jack. Tucked away under the spreading oak trees along a back street in Panacea off the beaten path, you might never know such a renowned place existed if not for the eye-catching seahorse signs directing you here. The lab was founded in 1963 and has grown to support marine research and education programs both on-site and at universities, aquariums and museums across the country. Anne loved nature and she loved teaching nature. In 1990 this “hidden Florida gem” was opened to the public. The facility houses bright aquariums swimming with seahorse, jellyfish, octopus, stingray, small sharks and assorted saltwater fish. Both children and adults delight in the easily accessible touch tanks that abound with sea anemone, urchins, starfish, sea pansies, sand dollars, whelks and clams. Educational displays can be explored in several buildings with additional tanks outside. A colorful gift shop is filled with a myriad of items intended to amuse and educate, and with the many books authored by Anne and Jack Rudloe. Well worth your first or any return trip.
2013 SHARKS & CHABLIS
“A Celebration of Anne Rudloe” is how Jack describes the theme for the 2013 Sharks & Chablis Winetasting and Seafood Dinner scheduled for Sunday, May 19 from 2-7 p.m. This annual fundraising event now it its fourth year also celebrates our ocean and the marine life that abounds. The popular event was suspended last year so the Rudloe family could devote their time to be with Anne. Now a year later, plans are well underway for this highly regarded benefit that draws a large crowd and promises an enjoyable afternoon/evening at the aquarium. The event comes complete with a bounty of delicious appetizers and desserts of your choosing, a tremendous seafood dinner “catered by the Seineyard, one of the best seafood restaurants we have around this area” assures Cypress, and a wide assortment of beer and wine. Plenty of live entertainment will be on hand including performances by singer/songwriter master guitarist, Rick Ott, by jazz musician, Sammy Tedder featuring his smooth saxophone and river cane flute compositions, and by the world music sounds of a local didgeridoo band. Dance enthusiasts will particularly enjoy a special performance by dynamic flamenco and lively Irish folk dancers.
Community groups such as Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tall Timbers and Florida Green Guide Association will host educational and informational business displays. Chehaw Wild Animal Park will have a live display and Sentman Ssnakes & Reptiles will captivate audiences with their popular on-site exhibit of live snakes. Featured also will be an outstanding silent auction with a diverse assortment of items donated by area merchants and works by local artists. And of course, the aquarium will be open for exploration and guided tours will be provided all afternoon.
The gleaming highlight though of this year’s Sharks & Chablis will be the official dedication of the new renovated wing to Anne Rudloe. A large sign has already been installed in tribute to Anne. It reads with one of her insightful quotes, “Protecting the earth gives meaning and wholeness and a sense that you are contributing to a greater good. This earth should not be allowed to disappear. Now it is your turn. “
That was what Anne believed. Be who you are and do what you love. That will be your contribution to the greater good.
Thank you Anne Rudloe, for doing exactly that.
Make your contribution to the greater good of the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab. Plan to attend the 2013 Sharks & Chablis Winetasting and Seafood Dinner on Sunday, May 19, 2-7 p.m. Gulf Specimen Marine Lab is located at 222 Clark Drive, off Rock Landing Road in Panacea, FL. Tickets are $35 per person and may be purchased at the lab or by calling 850-984-5297.