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~
ODE TO A CONCHUS MILLERI
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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