Richard B. Schealer on His Aquanaut
Certification Mission - 1997 -
On the Seafloor - Key Largo, Florida
I first met my father-in-law many times over the first year
in the late 1980’s – and never even knew him, even though I met with him nearly
every day. He was from the NASA space
shuttle launch test director’s office and I was from the space shuttle orbiter
safety contingent. At 2 o’clock each and
every day he and I and about 50 - 75 other engineers and specialists would meet
in a large cavernous room next door to the massive vehicle assembly building in
a facility called the launch control center, or LCC as it was referred to. Richard Schealer and I sat a little more than
a few feet apart almost side-by-side around the walls of that massive room for
many months and were never introduced. After
Richard retired from NASA, my career was just getting started. And I met his beautiful, angelic daughter,
Claudia, and eventually heard his voice speak to me for the very first
time. I was speaking with Claudia on the
phone and had been for several days in virtually nonstop phone conversations
that lasted for hours. I can hear his
voice that evening as clearly as if it were today. He suggested to his daughter that she should
invite me over to speak to her face-to-face and not tie his phone up so that he was
not able to hear from any of his other children! I believe I made record time traveling from
my apartment to 1204 Alamanda and am fairly sure that Claudia had not even hung
up the phone until she could hear my knock-knock-knock on her door! And so it was that Richard Schealer and I
first met on that evening and it was, in the end, his idea! That was the first indication that I had that
the man I would come to know as my father-in-law and later as father of my
heart had the approach that we NASA engineers had to stick together!
As the designer of undersea habitats and undersea colonies I
immediately discovered that Richard Schealer and I had more than just a lot in
common. We both loved diving just as we love
the sea. Either of us would not mind changing our address to actually go there to
live. Add to that fact that we were both
aerospace engineers – and, well, it was an instant family relationship that was
preordained in heaven. Not only did I
receive the blessing of the perfect father-in-law I also received the blessing
of marrying his angelic daughter on July 11, 1992.
What I discovered immediately was that I had not just
married the world’s most perfect and beautiful woman but that I had married
into one of the finest families in the world where God is the center, where Richard Schealer
gave the creator the warm touch of flesh in a place where love was fresh, abounding
Richard Schealer was an individual’s life exemplified and
overflowed with the purest kind of true Godly love expressed toward me a
newcomer, a relative outsider into the family.
And yet even after a few days I felt as though I had always been there
and I had always been a member of this wonderful family. I realize that I was accepted by everyone
immediately but I also realized that they learned this acceptance from their
Over years and decades I enjoyed and even thrived upon his
love and acceptance as his son. And when
my father passed away in 2004, I sat before Richard Schealer and told him that
he was it now, that he was my only father and I just wanted him to know that I
needed him. I remember that he smiled
and nodded his head and fully accepted the role that he had already been
playing in my life.
We shared many things together - notably open and free use
of his wonderful shop, and became the recipient of much of his dive gear over
the years. Eventually toward the end I
had the privilege of giving him my newer gear as his played out.
Richard Schealer was the most avid diver I have ever known. He would go on as many diving expeditions as
he could and on the dive boats he could be counted on to make almost every
scheduled dive. In most outings he dived
more than any other diver on the above, including the younger divers. He was a diver’s diver - he was truly a
phenomenon beneath the waves.
Richard Schealer had started diving with very sophisticated
apparatus that he himself designed to put together with his own hands,
predating Jacques Cousteau. Unfortunately
he did not pursue patent even though he was fabricating and using the same
kinds of devices long before they are protected by the French aquanaut.
Eventually my father-in-law became a part of my own undersea
expedition and he single-handedly designed and manufactured and installed the ventilation
system for the Scott Carpenter Space Analog Undersea Station. And in the summer of 1997 he was certified as
an aquanaut on one of the missions to which I was assigned the greatest honor
of acting as my father’s mission commander.
I will never forget how he loved his hours undersea and sleeping beside
me on our 24-hour mission on the floor of the ocean.
I could go on and on and make this a book but I will close
with the favorite memory that I have of my father in law, Richard Schealer and
that is sitting beside him in the undersea station and looking over at him
staring at the windows at the great ocean all around us. He just looked so intent and happy to be
there. And as I think of those hours
with him all these years later I know that today – right now - he sits
somewhere beneath some great crystal sea beneath the throne of God far more
content and far more than he ever was even beneath his precious, beautiful ocean
Godspeed my wonderful father, friend and fellow adventurer. I know that we shall meet again and I am very
excited at the prospect of you showing me the ropes at the bottom of the
crystal ocean fed by the river that runs from the sea of life.
Thank you, oh my God, for having been privileged to have
two of the finest fathers of all time!