Last updated: November 17, 2017 at 3:03 am
Founded equipment manufacturer Scubapro with Gustav Dalla Valle in 1963; U.S. Navy SEAL; founder of the Underwater Manufacturers Association; former executive director of DEMA; founder of Ocean Futures Society in 1964.
Excerpt from DEMA Press Release | December 14, 2015
Dive Industry Mourns the Loss of Dick Bonin, Former DEMA Executive Director and Industry Icon
A resident of Huntington Beach, California for over four decades, it can be said most fundamentally that Dick was a good man who truly cared about others. Service to others was embedded early on in his nature and even as a scuba equipment manufacturer he led the industry in providing new services to his retail dealers. A Chicagoan who retained his subtle accent all his life, in high school and college he was an accomplished academic, swimmer and boxer who graduated ‘with honors.’ Receiving an athletic scholarship to college, he went on to graduate cum laude and then entered the United States Navy. He was an accomplished and respected naval officer and gentleman who served his country as a line officer in the 1950’s during and after the Korean War. Dick was a protégé of the renowned Commander Douglas Fane who had moved from the British Navy to the US Navy in order to start up the famed UDT teams – and the later expansion christened the US Navy SEALs. Dick had an abiding love for the Navy and all of those who selflessly risked their lives in protecting freedom and serving others.
After his honorable naval service, Dick continued his love of the seas and entered into the scuba industry at its infancy in 1956. He advanced quickly to build an amazing network of friends who each realized that he had a quiet, quick wit and savvy business acumen. His rise and eventual teaming up as a co-founder of the ScubaPro brand along with fellow dive pioneer Gustav Dalla Valle are truly legend that helped birth the modern sport of recreational scuba. A humble guy with a self-deprecating humor, Dick routinely joked to his friends that “Gustav got both ScubaPro and me for the sum of one-dollar – and he always said he overpaid!”
Under his management of the ScubaPro brand, the company manufactured and improved many innovations for scuba and recreational diving including a single hose regulator; the Mark 5 flow-through piston regulator; the first buoyancy compensator back vest (BCD); the first pilot-valve second stage regulator; and his ever-popular “Jet Fins” to name but a few.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dick observed that the scuba manufacturers were lost in the crowd at the annual Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association trade show and took action to establish the Underwater Manufacturers Association that later became DEMA. After retiring from ScubaPro, he was called on to serve as a visionary interim executive director of DEMA in the mid-1990s at a critical time when the association began the process of opening its membership to all the various business segments of diving in order to grow scuba.
Dick’s diving industry awards were many and reputably earned, including the DEMA Reaching Out Award and the NOGI for Distinguished Service. A pragmatic ocean environmentalist, he was the founder of Ocean Futures Society and an early advocate and promoter of using retired aircraft and ships for placement as artificial reefs in US coastal waters. Dick also lead the dive industry efforts to ban long-line gill net fishing in California and secured the legislation naming the Garibaldi as California’s official marine fish. He was an avid free diver who held the US Navy free diving record for many years and enjoyed ribbing his fellow scuba divers by calling them ‘tankers’ – a very successful spear hunter who seemed to have ’30-minute lungs’ and always came up with his fish.
Yet with all of his many accomplishments, his friends knew well that Dick was most happy and proud of his large family and wonderful wife – he is survived by his wife Celeste, four children, and six grandchildren.
DEMA and the dive industry mourn the passing of a great pioneer of diving and express heartfelt gratitude for all he gave to each of us who loves diving.
Honours and Awards:
International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame (2017)
Diving Pioneer (Historical Diving Society, 2010)
DEMA Hall of Fame (1992)
NOGI Award (Distinguished Service, 1982)
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Jeffrey Gallant is the Editor-in-Chief and Records Keeper of the Diving Almanac. He is also a contributing editor of DIVER Magazine, and the scientific director of the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group (GEERG). Jeffrey started diving in 1982.