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Rudy Mancke, host of SC Public Radio's NatureNotes and SCETV's NatureScene, dies at 78

Rudy Mancke
Rudy Mancke

Rudy Mancke, the popular host of SC Public Radio's NatureNotes, died Nov. 7, 2023, at age 78.

Rudy Mancke, a South Carolina naturalist and popular host of South Carolina Public Radio's NatureNotes and SCETV's NatureScene, died Tuesday night, his wife confirmed.

He was 78.

Mancke's wife, Ellen, told SC Public Radio Wednesday that her husband had managed symptoms of liver disease in the last several months and was recently hospitalized.

Ellen Mancke said her husband died surrounded by his whole family.

A visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation in West Columbia.

"The thing about Rudy Mancke that was so impressive was that he knew so much about so many different elements of South Carolina's environment," said Sammy Fretwell, The State newspaper's longtime environment reporter. "He could tell you about the smallest plants, the largest animals. He just was an incredible resource for this state, and his death is going to be a real loss."

Mancke, a naturalist in residence at the University of South Carolina, was an institution in South Carolina and a beloved and well-known voice on SC Public Radio and SCETV for decades.

He showcased his love and curiosity for nature daily on SC Public Radio's NatureNotes program and SCETV's NatureScene, which launched in 1978 and ran for 25 years with co-creator Beryl Dakers and, later, Jim Welch.

"His field trips, broadcast nationwide, have earned him a legion of dedicated viewers," his online bio states.

"Rudy's boundless enthusiasm, deep knowledge and dedication to environmental education have left an enduring legacy that will continue to inspire future generations," SCETV President and CEO Adrienne Fairwell said. "His impact on our organization and the people of South Carolina is immeasurable."

On X, formerly Twitter, dozens of South Carolinians wrote tributes to Mancke.

"His talks on the Horshoe was a highlight of every season for me," posted @zackdjames.

"He was the best. My sister was fortunate enough to take a class from him and I always loved his shows," posted @therealsec.

"Always loved listening to NatureNotes on my way home from work," posted @GraysonLowman. "Never submitted anything to it but always thought about it when I saw something curious out in nature. He will certainly be missed."

Prior to ETV, Mancke was a natural history curator at the South Carolina State Museum, and a high school biology and geology teacher.

He graduated from Wofford College, attended graduate college at USC and received honorary doctorate degrees from the College of Charleston and Winthrop and Wofford colleges.

Mancke also founded the South Carolina Association of Naturalists.

Speaking to Columbia Metropolitan in 2021, Mancke told the magazine he discovered a love for the natural world at a young age growing up in Spartanburg. On his legacy, Mancke told the magazine the "biggest thrill in life" for him was seeing his children and grandchildren falling in love with nature, coupled with his TV and radio fans.

“I recognize the healing properties of being in nature, especially when the man-made world begins to feel overwhelming,” Mancke told the magazine. “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. A national series visiting all 50 states, as well as Canada, Costa Rica, Russia, and Ukraine, and all they are is just walks in the woods. And just that is good. But 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.”

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) is a news reporter with South Carolina Public Radio and ETV. She worked at South Carolina newspapers for a decade, previously working as a reporter and then editor of The State’s S.C. State House and politics team, and as a reporter at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville in 2013.