If you stepped foot inside the Proprietors restaurant over the past decade, chances are you ran into Emmanuel Otoo. Maybe you didn’t remember his name, but you almost certainly remembered his infectious smile.
Known to his friends and colleagues as “Eman,” “Manny,” or simply “E”, Otoo had become a beloved member of Nantucket’s restaurant community over the past decade. But on Sunday morning, Otoo tragically passed away at the young age of 32 due to a possible drowning incident in a pool at a mid-island residence. The news of his passing was shared by the Proprietors team, prompting the island’s restaurant industry and the many community members Otoo had befriended over the years to share their memories and stories of a man gone too soon.
“He was such a cherished part of our team,” said Proprietors co-owner Orla LaScola. “He’s been with us since the first year we opened and we loved him. He was like family. He just was such a part of the texture of the restaurant.”
Originally from Ghana, Otoo and his sister Emilia came to the United States to study. He was hired at the Proprietors the year it opened in 2013 thanks to a referral from another employee who had worked with him on Martha’s Vineyard. He started out as a busser, but quickly worked his way up through the restaurant.
“He was a waiter, he was our tech guy, he was a food runner, and he was the go-to whenever anybody needed anything,” LaScola said. “He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met in my life.”
The circumstances of Otoo’s death are not yet entirely clear. According to first responder sources, Nantucket police officers and EMTs responded to a home on Evergreen Way for a report of an unresponsive male around 5:40 a.m. Sunday morning. These sources said that Otoo had been pulled out of a pool at the home.
Emergency radio traffic from that morning indicated that the reporting parties told public safety dispatchers that Otoo had been under water for at least two minutes, and people at the home at begun CPR. The EMTs who responded to the scene also radioed to dispatchers to advise Nantucket Cottage Hospital that the victim may have suffered a "head strike."
Nantucket Deputy Fire Chief Sean Mitchell told the Current on Sunday that “NFD was dispatched at 5:39 a.m. for an unresponsive male. CPR was initiated by witnesses. NFD transported one priority 1 patient to NCH. We have no update on the patient’s condition at this time.”
"This case remains under investigation by the Nantucket Police Detective Unit and the Massachusetts State Medical Examiner's Office," Nantucket Police Department Lt. Angus MacVicar said. "At this time, the case does not appear suspicious."
While the investigation continues, tributes and remembrances of Otoo were being shared online Sunday, while Proprietors announced that the restaurant would be closed for the day “as we take this time to grieve.”
For those who worked with Otoo over the years, it was painful to accept the loss of a shining star in the Nantucket restaurant scene.
“Eman was like a beacon on a hill for all that came across his path,” said Cavel Mattison, who worked with Otoo at Proprietors and called him “little brother.”
“His smile sparkled, he radiated joy, his hugs brought warmth to each and everyone that was lucky to get one,” Mattison recalled. “I remember how he would power through some of our toughest shifts together at Proprietors. He started off as a food runner, then eventually he became a cornerstone of Proprietors. A favorite among coworkers and dinners. His energy was beyond!”
At the Gaslight on Sunday, Skyler Wright was requesting donations for Otoo’s family during her set and via Venmo. “He was so excited to be at Gaslight tonight,” Wright wrote on social media. “He told me he was going to be front row, and he still will be.”
Others in the restaurant industry shared their remembrances of Otoo, and we will add more below as we receive them.
“He was honestly friends with everyone. Such a happy guy and could feel that smile every time you saw it." - Dylan Cavaliere, Cru.
"Eman was one of the first true friends I made on island when I started at Props in 2014. He had an unwavering kindness, and a smile that made you want to smile with him even if you were already crying. He showed up before our shifts with ice cream in waffle bowls with sprinkles for the staff. This world is dimmer without his light. You are so loved and so missed, Eman." - Flynn Mercer
"I met Eman when I was 18 and just entering the restaurant industry of Nantucket. He became one of my first and best restaurant friends (who I didn’t work with). Every time we would see each other I always knew I was about to get a big hug and kiss on the cheek. The night of the accident I ran into him as I was heading home and of course got a big hug and kiss on the cheek. The last thing I ever said to him was “Frankie loves you, I love you, see you soon”. Yesterday was the hardest service I’ve ever worked and I’m sure many can say the same." Leah Hull, Straight Wharf Restaurant