John M. Stevely

John McCullum Stevely, 72, of Bradenton, died May 27.

He died while taking a walk at Robinson Preserve.

He and his beloved wife of 40 years, Dr. Theresa Bert, both marine biologists, had just returned from Cape Canaveral, where they witnessed a rocket launch and landing with their son, John Bert Stevely. A fitting last act for a scientist who treasured the seas and skies.

He was born April 10, 1950, to John Petrie Stevely and Dorothy McCollum Stevely in New York City, where he graduated from Bronx High School of Science. He earned a bachelor’s of science degree in biology from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in marine science from the University of South Florida. He would go on to be selected as a Smithsonian Research Fellow and a member of USF’s Outstanding Alumni.

During his long career as a Marine Extension Agent, he served as a University of Florida Sea Grant scientist and co-authored 15 scientific research publications. Following retirement, he became an agent emeritus.

Among the nearly 20 awards and commendations he received was a Gulf Coast Guardian Award and, in 2015, he was inducted into the Manatee County Agricultural Hall of Fame.

He is best known for his passionate efforts to preserve and protect the local environment and fishing industry.

He was a founder of the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival and served on the planning committee since its inception in 1981. He also assisted in the development of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, the establishment of the FISH Preserve in Cortez and in other efforts to restore coastal habitats.

He was an international expert in sponge ecology and sponge fishery management. His accomplishments also include the introduction of the fish venting tool, the development of best management practices for catch and release of deep-water reef fish and the study of the economic impact of artificial reefs and red tides.

Accolades aside, Mr. Stevely would argue his proudest accomplishment was his family. He was a hands-on father who relished taking his wife and son to acclaimed dive spots all over the world. He was a friend to all and his patient and kind demeanor will be missed by everyone who knew him. He would like to thank all his cherished family and friends for being a part of his earthly life.

Visitation will be held 5-8 p.m. Friday, June 3, at Brown & Sons Funeral Home, 604 43rd St. W., Bradenton. A service will be at 11 a.m. at Brown & Sons Funeral Home. A short graveside service will immediately follow at Skyway Memorial Gardens. A luncheon and gathering for funeral attendees and other invited guests will be held at 2:15 p.m. at Swordfish Grill in Cortez. Memorial donations may be made to FISH, P.O. Box 606, Cortez, FL 34215. And, please, take time to enjoy and protect the great outdoors.

Mr. Stevely is survived by wife Theresa Bert, son John B., sister, Dorothy Soulé, and her sons, Kenny and David.

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