Brian Barczyk, owner of The Reptarium in Utica, died on Sunday after ending his nearly year-long battle with inoperable pancreatic cancer and entering hospice care just 10 days ago. He was 54.
In a Facebook post announcing his death, staff at The Reptarium remembered Barczyk, saying in part: “(…) Brian’s fervent passion for reptiles and wildlife, along with his steadfast dedication to education, has touched innumerable hearts and minds globally.”
“As we navigate this difficult time, we find comfort in the memories and the lasting light of Brian’s work. He will be deeply missed but indeed, never forgotten.”
Prior to his death, Barczyk posted a tearful goodbye video to his more than five million YouTube subscribers. In the just-over 16-minute video titled “This is Goodbye,” Michigan’s Snake Man expressed his love for those who have visited The Reptarium reptile zoo or followed his work with snakes, lizards, geckos, and other reptiles.
“I appreciate you guys so much,” he said. “It’s been an amazing journey and one that has changed my life. Each one of you have changed my life like you can’t believe.”
According to WXYZ, Barczyk was diagnosed with stage two pancreatic cancer on Feb. 27, 2023, and it quickly progressed to stage four. He went into hospice on Jan. 5, 2024, one day after posting the goodbye video.
“Tomorrow, I go into hospice, which means I don’t have long to go after that,” he said in his goodbye video. “But don’t worry about me. I’ve got Jesus in my heart and when I’m gone, I’m going to spend an eternity in heaven to be able to look down on the legacy and I’m going to be able to look down on my family and everyone who I love. I’m the lucky one.”
The Barczyk family invites the public to a memorial walk-through in honor of his memory from 1-3 p.m. on Jan. 17 at Heritage Church in Sterling Heights. In lieu of flowers, they encourage you to get involved with the important work The Reptarium does by visiting his memorial page on their website.
You can also keep his legacy alive by visiting LegaSea Aquarium, which will open across the street from The Reptarium, and following his vlog — something he asked for prior to his death.
“Listen, I wanted to be there and greet you guys at the open and that’s all I dreamt of. Unfortunately, I gotta tell you, that is not going to happen…” Barczyk said in the video. “I pray that you guys will continue to watch the Vlog and continue to follow along because nothing is going to change. Our messages will be the same. The difference is, you’re not going to see me.”