Suffolk responds to Mr. Peanut’s demise

Published 10:31 pm Friday, January 24, 2020

Two days after the reported death of 104-year-old marketing icon and Suffolk native Mr. Peanut, everybody in Suffolk was still shell-shocked and hoping for better news in the days ahead.

Mr. Peanut’s death was reported on his official social media accounts Wednesday. The Planters Peanuts mascot was shown in mountainous terrain driving the Nutmobile with Matt Walsh and Wesley Snipes when he swerved to avoid an armadillo, sending the three friends over the cliff. As they cling to a branch, which starts to crack, Mr. Peanut lets go to relieve the pressure on the branch and save his friends. He falls into the wreckage of the Nutmobile, which then explodes.

The pre-Super Bowl commercial was released by Planters along with a flurry of related marketing, including special pins that show Mr. Peanut’s monocle and a teardrop and even a memorial wreath being displayed wherever the Nutmobile has made an appearance.

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The company has promised that Mr. Peanut’s funeral will be shown in a commercial during the third quarter of the big game, and everyone has a theory about whether Mr. Peanut is really gone.

At the Suffolk Visitor Center, a statue of Mr. Peanut was surrounded by flowers, candles, bags of peanuts and other memorabilia by Thursday afternoon.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of Mr. Peanut’s tragic and heroic passing,” Tourism Development Manager Theresa Earles said. “He has served as a wonderful icon for our great city and will be remembered as our favorite legume.”

However, Earles was holding out hope that Mr. Peanut isn’t dead quite yet.

“We are certainly hoping that Mr. Peanut did, in fact, survive, and we will find out in a couple of weeks during the big game that something magical and, perhaps, mysterious brings back our dapper peanut.”

Planters was founded by Amedeo Obici in 1906 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., but the company built its first mass-processing plant in 1913 in Suffolk to be closer to the peanut growers. It remains here to this day.

Mr. Peanut was born in Suffolk in 1916, the creation of a Suffolk teen named Antonio Gentile, who responded to a call for a Planters mascot with drawings of the anthropomorphized nut. A professional artist dressed him up with the monocle, top hat, cane, white gloves and spats.

“I think he’s a tough nut to crack, and he’s not going to leave his friends hanging on a limb,” said Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson. “I think Mr. Peanut’s going to emerge from somewhere.”

Johnson said Mr. Peanut is a part of all of us, whether you’re from Suffolk or not.

“I predict another 100 years for him,” she said.

Some people are less than pleased that Planters apparently killed off its beloved mascot, and Bobby Beale, proprietor of the Planters Peanut Center on West Washington Street with his wife, Faye, is one of them. He’s afraid the legacy of Obici and Planters will fade away if Mr. Peanut is truly gone.

“I think the reason Suffolk is what it is today is because of its agricultural background and, really, Mr. Obici,” Beale said. “I’m old school, and I say if it ain’t broke, why would you try something that drastic?”

Beale is skeptical, however, that Mr. Peanut is really gone, noting that the Mr. Peanut in the released commercial isn’t the current version, but rather a generic version of an older-style Mr. Peanut from the 1980s.

Tommy Salmon, whose grandparents worked at Planters and who is a member of the Peanut Pals collectors’ group for all things Planters and Mr. Peanut, said he is heartbroken over the apparent death.

“It’s just a Suffolk thing,” he said. “If you were born and raised in Suffolk, Mr. Peanut was everything.”