Celebrating the Life of

by Dennis Chamberland - Son-In-Law

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 and everywhere. 
    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 father. 
    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 on earth!
    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!


Dennis Chamberland