670th BS Patch

416th Bombardment Group (L)

Stanley Sheley

1st Lt., Pilot

April 8, 1917 - December 6, 2000

670th Bombardment Squadron (L)

WWII-Medal

Return to Table of Contents



 

 

 


STAN SHELEY, SCUBA DIVING PIONEER, AIR FORCE PILOT, DIES IN SAN JOSE

 

DECEMBER 6, 2000, SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA --- Stan Sheley died today at the age of 83 from complications battling cancer. He was a well-known SCUBA diving instructor and former owner of Stan's Skin Diving Shop in San Jose.

Stan, the son of Horace Sheley and Lila Green, was born on April 8, 1917 in Pittsburgh, Calif. The family settled in the Santa Clara Valley in the early 1920's. Stan had two interests in life, aeronautics and SCUBA diving. His interest in underwater exploration began early from reading stories of hard-hat divers finding sunken ships and chests of gold. In 1936, in a Campbell High School shop class, he made a diving helmet from a hot water tank with air supplied by a garden hose and a tire pump. He first tried his invention at Vasona Dam, a mud hole in Los Gatos Creek, and later in the ocean off Monterey, Calif.

Stan's schooling at San Jose State Collage was interrupted by World War II. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and became a commissioned officer. While stationed in England and France he flew over 30 combat missions with the 416th Bomb Group as a pilot in the A-20 and A-26 Invader. After the war, Stan flew with the Air Force Reserve at Hamilton Air Force Base north of San Francisco. During the Korean War, he was called up to active duty as a jet test pilot stationed in Florida. While stationed there he learned to fly helicopters. He was sent to Central America to fly rescue missions. During his 11 years as a military pilot, he obtained the rank of Captain.

In 1946, Stan met and married the former Elsie L. Holden of Sacramento, Calif. After the war in 1953 he returned to San Jose, Calif. where he worked as a photo engraver. Diving was still quite primitive during the early 1950's. Dive gear was either home-made or purchased through mail order catalogs. In 1956, Stan purchased a 2000 PSI compressor and had the first source of breathing air in the San Jose area. He was soon repairing regulators and valves and making dry suits. When foam neoprene became available in 1957, he switched to wet suits, making as many as 10 per week in his basement. In 1958 Stan opened Stan's Skin Diving Shop on Bascom Avenue, the first professional dive shop in San Jose. During this time, Stan did search and recovery for the Santa Clara County Sheriffs Department, recovering drowning victims, cars, and weapons from local reservoirs, including an aircraft and pilot from 132 feet in Anderson Dam.

Stan was certified as a YMCA Scuba Instructor and began teaching dive classes at the Central Branch of the YMCA in 1960. The following year he was certified (#180) by the National Association of Underwater Instructor's (NAUI). Stan certified over 9,000 diving students at the YMCA, Stan's Skin Diving Dive Shop and local junior colleges, and with a perfect safety record. He was ahead of his time in dive instruction by including ocean rescue and CPR. Stan also trained many assistant instructors, over 25 of whom went on to become instructors and teach classes on their own.

Always adventurous, in 1962 Stan spent four months in Venezuela diving for diamonds and gold. In 1964 he had his closest call while exploring Bower's Cave, a subterranean cave near Yosemite National Park, with several friends. Stan survived by breathing exhausted air trapped on the ceiling of the cave until he was able to retrieve his air supply and make his escape. During 1968 - 1972 he was hired as a professional diver to recover aircraft that crashed into San Francisco Bay.

After belonging to several area dive clubs, Stan founded the San Jose Flipper Dippers in 1964 and served as the club's president for seven years. This club is still going strong with well over 100 members and a very active dive calendar. In 1969 Stan hosted a group of blind SCUBA divers from Sweden for a dive in Monterey Bay. He was so impressed by their ability and their enjoyment of the sport that he went to a San Jose school for the blind and offered to teach two blind students to dive. The two young people successfully completed the class and the ocean checkout and were certified as divers.

In 1972, at the suggestion of fellow diver and club member Dave Tatsuno, also a member of the YMCA Board, Stan and other Flipper Dipper members successfully organized the world's first SCUBATHON. Similar to a walkathon, money was pledged for laps swum underwater in the YMCA pool. Over the years a total of seven SCUBATHONS were held, raising over $20,000 for the YMCA.

Stan began leading other adventurous divers to exotic dive sites in 1971 with a trip to Haiti to explore sunken Spanish galleons. Accommodations and travel were a bit primitive, but the trips to Haiti continued for 10 years. He also led dive trips to Central America, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Tahiti, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Stan sold Stan's Skin Diving Shop around 1979 and then retired from diving instruction in 1989. He spent the last ten years enjoying the sport he loved so well, creating things in his basement workshop, and tending to his bountiful garden. Stan is survived by his wife, Elsie, daughter Cheryl J. Beckley and son Steven J. Sheley, both of Gresham, Oregon. The family suggests memorial donations be made to Hospice of the Valley, San Jose, Calif. and the American Cancer Society.



"Goin' Home" courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Band