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David R. Stith

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DAVID R. STITH, renowned underwater dive expert, space program consultant and founding member of the Underwater Society of America, passed away on Wednesday, July 30 at 9 o'clock a.m. He was 83. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Stith was a resident of Warminster, Pennsylvania who held a long and illustrious career in underwater explora-tion and diving. He began diving in a homemade bucket helmet at the age of eleven and was one of the first aqua lung divers in the country. After qualifying as a Navy hardhat diver, he saw combat in the Pacific in World War II and dove with the salvage crew on the SS Normandie. While in the Navy he glimpsed the peaceful use of diving by collecting underwater specimens for scientists. He then began a rich and varied life that included, in the late 1950s, being one of the founding members and President of the first diving club on the East Coast. He also was a founder and President of the Mid Atlantic Underwater Council, as well as a founding member and six term president of the Underwater Society of America. As president, he represented the organization in Paris at the World Underwater Federation "Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques", where he befriended Jacques Cousteau. He taught diving techniques to thousands including Congress-men, scientists and industrial-ists and was awarded the coveted NOGI award, the highest award given by the Underwater Society of America, for his outstanding achievement and promotion of SCUBA and skin diving sports. Other recipients of this award include the late Jacques Cousteau. He served as a consultant to Johnsville Aviation Development Center and worked hands on to simulate space environment in concert with the centrifuge program in the early 1960s. He was also a consultant to GE's space program and participated in the space simulation for several programs including the Moon Orbital Landing program where he orchestrated underwater "moon landings" with an Apollo replica and acclimated astronauts to a weightless environment. In the 1970s, he and his crew dove on the wreck of the San Jose near Cartagena, Columbia. This resulted in finding the early 1700s wreck's cannons and cannon balls, but no treasure. Stith was the founder, CEO and President of Underwater Technics, Inc., where he pioneered ship hull cleaning in the United States for merchant shipping. His company was the first company in the US to clean hulls at the same time the ship was being unloaded. He also worked with the Maritime Administration to perfect systems for the United States Fleets. Underwater Technics inspected the below-water portion of every state-owned bridge in Pennsylvania. Underwater Technics, head-quartered in Camden County, New Jersey, handled numerous jobs on the Delaware River and many other locations through-out the world. The type of jobs included marine salvage and construction projects, oil spills and pollution control. He was a board member of the Maritime Museum, founding member of the Depth Chargers, board member of the Seaman's Church, sponsor of the Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild, life member of the Navy League of the United States, and Port Warden of Phila-delphia. Predeceased by his father and mother, Charles P. Stith and Kathryn Melvin Stith; he is survived by his wife of 58 years, Beatrice B. Stith; his brothers Melvin Stern and Charles Stith, his son David J. Stith, his daughters Susan Stith, Carol Hoffmeier and Barbara Hess, 17 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. Services will be held on Friday, August 8th at 10:00 a.m. at Nativity of Our Lord Parish, 625 West Street Road, Warminster, Pennsylvania. After service luncheon for friends and family held on Friday, August 8th at 11:30 am at Spring Mill Manor (Manor Ballroom), 171 Jacksonville Road, Ivyland, PA 18974. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Seaman's Church Institute (SCI) of Philadelphia, c/o the David R. Stith Outreach Fund, 475 North 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123.
Published on Philly.com from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6, 2008
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