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Tampa Bay residents, tourists share Winter the dolphin memories

After the death of Clearwater’s beloved dolphin, the Tampa Bay Times asked people online for their stories.
Flowers and drawings rest at a memorial site for Winter the dolphin on Friday at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The 16-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, the star of "Dolphin Tale," died Thursday.
Flowers and drawings rest at a memorial site for Winter the dolphin on Friday at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The 16-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, the star of "Dolphin Tale," died Thursday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Nov. 13
Updated Nov. 13

When Winter the dolphin died Thursday at age 16, fans from Tampa Bay and beyond took to social media to honor her. Some recounted visits to see Winter at the Clearwater aquarium, others were inspired by her resilience depicted in the movie “Dolphin Tale.”

The Tampa Bay Times asked people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share their memories and photos of Winter. Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

“My daughter loved visiting Winter and watches both movies often! She is an animal lover and wants to be an ‘animal doctor’ one day lol. She was very sad when we told her the news. We’ll miss you Winter.” — Ania Filepas of Palm Harbor, from Facebook

“As someone who suffers from a disability in my legs and has to use a wheelchair, Winter the dolphin has inspired me ever since I was a child. It was comforting seeing Winter succeed with her prosthetics. I am so sad to see her pass.” — Lexi Bull, 15, of Kansas City, Mo., from Twitter

“Lyla has spina bifida and is a full-time wheelchair user. Winter has been an inspiration to her. We’ve visited many times through the years and will continue to go to see the others.” — Lysette Olmeda of Tampa, from Facebook

Related: See how Winter the dolphin was a role model for kids with disabilities

“When I was 8, I was adopted and my first vacation was to see Winter. This wonderful dolphin lit up my whole world. I have never seen such beauty in an underwater animal. I would watch Dolphin Tale over and over again, and to this day, I still do. I was devastated when I woke up Friday morning. She was only 16, my poor girl passed away. She was loved, is loved, and will continue to be loved. I bet she’s feeling so much better now.” — Alexis Davies, 17, of Spring Hill, from Facebook

“Grew up going to the aquarium before the movie, I will never forget how it grew.” — Alexis Perno, 19, of Tampa, from Instagram

“My great nephews 5 and 3 from N.J. loved Winter when they came to visit. They loved her.” — Mary Kosiarski Simmons, 57, of Safety Harbor, from Facebook

[ courtesy of Mary Simmons via Facebook ]

“In 2010, I was one of about 18 volunteers who were on Winter’s desensitization team to help her (and the other resident dolphins) be prepared for movie crews and cameras. We would stand quietly in the summer heat, holding a fake movie camera at Winter, with the goal of her and the others eventually paying no attention — thus being ‘desensitized’ to the process.” — Mickey Howard of Dunedin, from Instagram

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“This is so sad. Winter was definitely a one of a kind, precious gift. She touched so many hearts. Winter’s disability made a difference to more lives than we will ever know, giving kids courage and strength to take on their own struggles. Going to be missed.” — Joyce Singh of Treasure Island, from Facebook

“When I was 7, I watched Dolphin Tale, and she inspired me to be a marine vet.” — Zoë Angustain, 15, of Mission Viejo, from Instagram

Related: Read how Winter helped the Clearwater Marine Aquarium expand their mission

“My son was 8 when we went to the aquarium during a vacation from Ohio. He was absolutely fascinated by the sleeve they used to cover the prosthetic.” — Tom, 50, of Lima, Ohio, from Twitter

“I was incredibly moved by Winter’s strength when I first saw Dolphin Tale at the age of 7. I begged my parents to visit Florida until they finally gave in. I will never forget the day I saw Winter in person. This type of rescue work and rehabilitation of marine life is why I’m still so interested in biology to this day and plan to pursue a career for it in the future.” — Saule Kondra, 14, of Tampa, from Instagram

"This is my Winter tattoo from when the 2nd movie came out." — Kell M Coyk, from Facebook
"This is my Winter tattoo from when the 2nd movie came out." — Kell M Coyk, from Facebook [ courtesy of Kell M Coyk via Facebook ]

“Winter was playing with and chasing my kids, Preston and Peyton, in July 2019. It was incredible to watch them play together.” — Pam Moore McCoy of Tampa, from Facebook

“‘Dolphin Tale’ was amazing to watch as a kid. It taught me to care for wildlife, the ocean and especially for others. So finally one day, my grandparents brought me to CWA and I got to see Winter. This was amazing to finally make the connection in person. Knowing that a dolphin and her story changed so many people was so cool to see firsthand.” — Ethan, 18, of Tampa, from Instagram

Related: Read next: Here’s how to stream ‘Dolphin Tale’ movies