W.H. Snooks Adams Memorial Eulogy
W.H. Snooks Adams
By Ed Chiles
I'm pleased to be here to speak today in what can only be viewed as a celebration of a life well lived. I know you all join me in appreciating Snooks' transition to a place where he can once again enjoy the freedom that he cherished.
This beautiful place, in which so many of us are so blessed to live, was Snooks' oyster -- Cortez, where he was raised, the island where he was the law for 3 decades, and where he lived with the love of his life. For Snooks the island environment fit like a glove. So many of us were fortunate to be on his trap line. I really don't know where Snooks found the time to make all of his rounds, but he did. Mom and dad were one of his stops. There were fat mullet there that deserved to be caught and a great heirloom orange tree, the best oranges I ever tasted. Snooks would always leave a little mullet and spread those oranges around to his favorite folks.
I think Snooks may well have invented the concept of community policing. He knew everything that went on and he was strong as an ox. He was not a man that you wanted to get a grasp on you. Snooks knew how to handle the rowdy teenagers from Polk County, when to be firm and when to give a kid a break.
[John Fara story - 16 years old, Cadillac, N.Y., 10 minute chew out, Public Beach, never did again.]
When my career at the Sandbar began 31 years ago, Snooks became a mentor to me, like he was for many others.
Snooks always informed me of the things that I was supposed to be doing and he never held back on all of the things I should not have been doing. I can still hear him now "Don't make me call the old man."
Snooks started the "Sons of the Beach." He was the president, membership director, and rules chairman. As rules chair he set the price of a draft for members at … 50¢ … It was over 10 years before I could get him to accept a raise to 75¢. I checked yesterday and the current price of a draft for the SOB's is 80¢. Make that WAS 80¢. Snooks told me that after he was gone he didn't care what I charged you Sons of the Beaches.
Snooks held court every afternoon at the Sandbar for the better part of 25 years. He presided over a cast of characters that could have been a guaranteed anecdote against writer's block for the likes of Carl Hiasen and Randy Wayne White. There were:
Chuck and Joey Lester, the island's version of Thurston and Luvy Howell
Dick Sykes the banker and his son Jim
Rex and Helen Hagen
Joe Hutchison and Jack Harrison.
Snooks gave Joe and me a lot of advice over the years. Unfortunately, very little of it can be shared here. Snooks took a certain pleasure in raising the blood pressure of his gang. If a newcomer arrived, Snooks was sure to take his measure. If need be, he would proceed to poke the Yankee in the eye with a sharp stick to see what he was made of and he wasn't beyond running him off if he deemed it necessary to protect the gene pool of the group. Many of you know that side of Snooks. I confess I loved that about him. What many of you also know was how much time he spent looking after his friends. Snooks loved Dr. Tom, he nicknamed him Papa Doc.
Snooks and Dr. Tom would argue with one another from time to time at the bar. I can see it like it was yesterday. Dr. Tom was a striking character in his rimed glasses and floppy round brimmed hat. He had a most interesting gate and smoked cigarettes held in a cigarette holder. He was the spitting image of the Ralph Steadman figures from Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing book.
The arguments were always in jest with each becoming indignant and they would end soon after they had cast the appropriate dispersion on the heritage, upbringing, and intellect, or lack thereof, of the other, often while uninitiated onlookers' eyes got wider and wider.
Snooks was certainly known to have an opinion that often created teachable moments with his friend and chief antagonist Otto. Snooks called him Ott. One of the many things Snooks and I agreed on was the republicans. While many were nice people, they didn't know much. Ott thought he knew a lot. The problem was he was deaf as a post. Snooks would get the argument going and have Ott about to burst a vessel and then he would make his final statement, allowing his voice to trail off. This made Ott crazy. He would get red in the face and demand Snooks to repeat himself to which Snooks would throw his hands up and mouth something to Ott.
The only time we didn't see Snooks was for two weeks in the spring and one week in the fall. When Liz would get her vacations from the hospital, Snooks would load up the Miss Yutzy, his 28 foot crab boat, and grab his cast iron skillet and he and Liz would head South to the Keys or up to the Panhandle, living on the boat and off the land. In the fall they always took a week to drive cross country. Soon enough he would be back with the gang and more stories of recent adventures.
As I said, Snooks loved Dr. Tom, and Dr. Tom loved Snooks. I think second only to his wife of 50 plus years. When Dr. Tom's wife passed away, Papa Doc was devastated. Snooks surrounded him with companionship and love. If Dr. Tom had a problem at the house, Snooks got it fixed. When the water heater broke and flooded the house, he got it cleaned up and replaced the water heater. He checked on Dr. Tom everyday, always with P.D. Adams at his side. P.D. was Snooks favorite dog. He wasn't much to look at. In fact he was worse than that, the off-spring of Snooks' poodle Sam who was a fine looking dog. Snooks blamed it on the fact that they went out East for the mate and I am sure that was the case. For 17 years P.D. Adams was as faithful to Snooks as he was to his friends.
Snooks had a keen sense of humor that sometimes had a bit of a racy edge. This was often borne out in his penchant for arts and crafts. Most of us have a stone crab key chain, my girls loved those. They liked the cocklebur animals that he made too. I was always careful to examine those thoroughly before taking them home. Certain cocklebur poodles were like Snooks … they were larger than life. Snooks would make a grand gesture in presenting them to a new female staff member or tourist. The initiated among us would look on and smile, affirming his generosity. The mark would discover the larger than life feature and become flush as Snooks informed them that the dog was a red tipped pointer.
There wasn't a thing about Snooks that I didn't like, except maybe the 50¢ drafts. But one of the things I liked the most was when he cooked at the house. We shared a love for cooking and were both very proud of our cracker heritage. Nobody made fried mullet or smoked mullet better than Snooks. He taught me that they were best in the fall, just before they begin to produce their roe. That's when they have their highest fat content in preparation for mating season and the females begin their roe development. I liked mullet before, but Snooks turned me on to fat mullet. He would fry them in the kitchen. My favorite thing was sitting with him in the side yard. He would grill and lightly smoke fat mullet. He would smoke them in an old 3 drawer bread warmer he got from the Sandbar and then converted. You could see the golden oil bubbling up out of the fillets. Those of you who know, know … I am sure some of you think this is crazy, but remember this, try a prime mullet in October. It has a quality that is like Toro sushi or the best marbled steak. Buttery. We sat at his picnic table on so many beautiful fall days. Fresh squeezed O.J. from his trees, a firm Florida avocado from the tree only feet away, mullet and mullet roe. Snooks taught me to appreciate the white roe and the red roe, which is really yellow. He taught me to like mullet gizzards, I know, I know … but they are just like a chicken gizzard and for a foodie like me this was the ultimate and he was definitely the master. It just doesn't get any better.
Snooks was a man's man. I don't think I have ever known any man who was tougher or stronger. I felt his grip a time or two, probably at less than 50% of his capacity. It was sobering. You never heard anyone allow as to Snooks misusing his physical strength. I think it did allow for a certain level of confidence though. He really had the perfect balance. He rarely had to act tough; he knew how to read people. He used his feel for people and he combined that with his humanity and integrity. If someone was abusing a wife or child, he did not tolerate it. If someone was up to no good on his island, they didn't stay long.
Snooks knew he was blessed. Blessed to win the hand of Liz Yutzy, the love of his life. The woman who could say "Adams" and govern his behavior. Blessed to call Anna Maria and Manatee County and the waters that he loved, home. Blessed to have wonderful friends. If a man is known by his association, then the island and a large part of Manatee County and beyond were his association.
We were blessed to have been among them. It is no understatement to say that Snooks Adams will always be an Island Icon. He was a truly good man, a unique man, a man who possessed much love.
We will all remember that incredible smile and the twinkle in his eye and we will not see his kind come our way again.