Thank You Jacques Cousteau

The SCUBA Diver's Hero

Jacques Yves Cousteau

If you think about it, Montgomery, Alabama is probably a most unlikely place to begin a lifelong joy of SCUBA diving. It was 1960, and I overheard a sergeant in the Sage building talking about his diving experiences. In a few days, I found myself sitting on the bottom of the deep end of the YWCA pool, watching the girls swim team practice above me. It was the first of many hundreds of memorable underwater adventures.

I attended a dive club meeting shortly thereafter, and began diving the springs and caves of South Alabama and North Florida. Several trips to the Gulf of Mexico, and a couple of close calls in underwater caves convinced me that I'd rather have open water above me. I've never looked back from the beautiful and ever-changing ocean. An added bonus has been over 40 years with a continuous supply of good seafood for my family and friends, as my hunting abruptly moved from animals to fish and lobster.

Florida Cave Diving

Exiting The Cave

In 1965, I transferred to Cape Canaveral on the Apollo program. I was anxious to take advantage of South Florida's warm clear water and abundant coral reefs. At the Space Center, I met two IBM'ers who owned a marina in Sebastian, Florida. I went to their marina one day, and ran into a diver just returning from a trip. I introduced myself and told him that I just arrived in Florida, and could I go diving with him? "Be here at eight A.M. tomorrow" he said, and drove off towing his 16 foot boat behind an AMC Gremlin. The next morning as I waited at the marina, he drove up and dropped his boat into the water. After parking the Gremlin, he opened its hood and removed the battery and carburator to be installed in his boat engine, and away we went in this tiny boat to a reef 15 miles offshore. This was the beginning of my long, unusual, mostly rewarding, often harrowing association with Fred; one hellofa diver, daring, impetuous and accident-prone..... More about Fred in a later story.

In less than a month I had my own 18 foot boat, which I named The Grouper Snooper, and began to build on my own knowledge of this area. My circle of diving friends grew rapidly, and expanded down the coast. My sons Carl and Mark, now 10 and 9 years old, began to dive with me on trips to the Florida Keys, and later to the offshore reefs of Cocoa Beach and Sebastian. Eric and Dean would start even younger, encouraged by their older brothers. As children Diane and Paula never seemed very interested in SCUBA, but they were both good snorkelers. (Paula did receive her SCUBA certification in November, 2002.)

Early in 1967, I was introduced to a woman diver in West Palm Beach. Eleanor Miller was then 49 years old, and had been diving for about ten years. At the time, she was the Women's Florida State Spearfishing Champion. The first day we met, seven of us divers stayed in a little motel she owned on Singer Island, to get an early start the next day. We all slept on the floor of her unit, and at 6 A.M. the next morning we were awakened to a great country-style breakfast. This became the routine whenever we gathered on the island. Over the next eight years, we rarely missed a weekend, diving the reefs and wrecks from Cape Canaveral to Ft. Lauderdale and the Keys. Many trips were also made to the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas, Cay Sal near Cuba, and Cozumel, Mexico with our Kennedy Space Center Barracudas Dive Club.

In 1975 IBM's job at the Cape was over, and I was transferred to San Jose, California. Unlike my sons Mark and Dean, the icy cold Pacific Ocean was never my cup of tea, and I always thought that abalone tasted like white rubber. I did give it a good try though. Aside from the diving, I loved everything about Northern California, and made some wonderful and lasting friendships. San Jose and San Francisco offered ideal weather, beautiful scenery, and vast cultural opportunities. Jean ensured that I took full advantage of the latter. Eric, Dean and Paula loved our campouts and trout fishing in the Sierra Mountains and trips to the coast. Paula especially enjoyed horseback riding in the hills of San Jose. But alas, after almost four years, the warm blue waters of the South Atlantic drew me East.

After returning from California in 1979, Eleanor and I would begin a loving and rewarding relationship, lasting until her untimely death in 1993. She became a virtual member of my family, attending most family functions and five of my children's weddings. She especially enjoyed diving with Carl and Dean. Eleanor loved the sea and was an avid shell collector, winning or placing high in every shell show competition. She had an extensive collection including most of the known shells of the Carribean, Atlantic, and Gulf waters. When Eleanor would on rare occasions take a live shell, it would never be a duplicate example of one already in her collection. I would occasionally accompany her on one of her frequent visits to the 10,000 year-old marl pits of South Florida, to dig for rare seashell fossils.
~Please click below to see my poem about her called~

Ready To Go Diving

My Dear Friend Eleanor And Me

We dove together every weekend when the weather permitted, and many days that we should have stayed ashore, for over 14 years. She was always game for the challenge of a cold rough sea. Our outings were more than mere dive trips. Eleanor would always make sure we had a good lunch on the boat during our surface decompression time. We would loudly sing many of the old songs, tell jokes and reminisce over our wonderful times. Eleanor was still going strong at 75 and diving regularly, with two artificial knees and a hip replacement. I visited with her in the hospital that September on a Friday, following the removal of a benign ovarian cyst. We happily planned our dive for the following weekend, but at midnight that evening her doctor called me with devastating news that I had lost my best friend and dive buddy as a result of an embolism or blood clot. Her ashes now mingle with the coral and sealife on one of her favorite dive spots called Horseshoe Reef.

About eight months after her death, Dave Robbins and I bought her little house in Juno Beach. For the last nine years it has been our diving headquarters, with our dive boats parked on each side. We have been visited over the years by many of her dear friends, to dive or just to reminisce about the great times and celebrate this beautiful lady. Our very closest friends Elvira, Dee, Bea, and her nieces Cheryl and Cynthia come by regularly. We all miss her every day.

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