|Berkshire Museum's Chuck the Tortoise Was Aquarium Favorite|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff|
07:07AM / Sunday, April 04, 2021
A diapered Chuck interacts with children at the museum.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Chuck the red-footed tortoise, the Berkshire Museum's beloved aquarium resident of 35 years, died on Monday at the venerable age of about 80 years old.
"He gave so much for so long, we just can't overlook that part of his contribution to our community," Executive Director Jeff Rodgers said, who referred to Chuck as an "ambassador" for the local museum.
"I can't imagine how many people's lives were touched by their interactions with Chuck and hopefully it helps them to pursue their connection with the natural world in new and better ways."
Visiting Chuck was a favorite activity for visitors of all ages. He was an integral part of the museum's educational programs, teaching children about reptiles and sparking joy at birthday parties. Chuck often roamed around the outside of his enclosure — sporting a diaper — for children's lessons.
"He was a very, very social tortoise," Marketing and Brand Manager Kimberly Donoughe said. "He was the centerpiece of children's birthday parties and he was a staff favorite."
The affectionate, mild-tempered tortoise could also be seen soaking up some rays on the museum's front lawn during favorable weather.
Chuck became a Pittsfield resident in 1986 after spending the first half of his life in a New York City apartment. Because he was raised as a pet, museum staff said he was always curious about people and the world around him and loved interacting with people. He enjoyed fresh fruit treats and a good shell scrub.
Donoughe noted that he recognized aquarium staff and was always excited to see them.
"Chuck's origin is a little bit mysterious, he was living as someone's pet in a New York City apartment before he came to the museum and so it's some combination of what we were told when he came to us, how long he's been with us," she said.
"And then Thom Smith, who worked in the aquarium for many, many years, estimates, given his experiences with him and his knowledge, that Chuck was about 80 years old but nobody is really sure because we didn't have Chuck when he was a baby."
Rodger said he found himself taking the "long way" back to his office on a regular basis just to drop by and see what Chuck was up to.
"Boy, did he have a personality, and he really drew you in," he said. "I know that was true for me and true for so many other people, and it became part of what you looked forward to at the museum."
In the time leading up to Chuck's passing, he was reportedly "slowing down." The life expectancy for red-footed tortoises is around 30 to 50 years, which he triumphantly passed.
Donoughe pointed out how many generations grew up Chuck because of his extended time in the aquarium. The museum is trying to make followers aware of the sad news, as he was family to many.
"He's a friend to a lot of people," Donoughe said. "and you never want to find out about your friends passing from the newspapers, we were trying to ensure that we notified a lot of people and our followers and our members."
Chuck will be cremated and his ashes returned to the museum, which is currently determining the best way to honor his legacy. Memories and photographs of the special tortoise are being collected to create a small memorial at his enclosure site.
Members of the community are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit berkshiremuseum.org/remembering-chuck.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Chuck the Tortoise. He was a unique and cherished member of the museum and our community," Rodgers wrote in a press release. "Some animals are ambassadors for their species and for the natural world. Generations have come to understand and respect our connections to the living world through their interactions with Chuck. He'll be missed, but his legacy will live on."