"Smokey," a name carried over from his days playing accordion in the country western band, the 101 Ranch Boys, died October 29, 2020 at the Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Florida, as yet another victim of the Covid 19 virus.
Smokey and wife of 74 years, Dorothy (Dotty) moved to an assisted living facility in Cape Coral Florida following his recovery from a fall at home at 412 N. Duke St., Lancaster, PA in 2019.
When that facility developed Covid patients, he and Dotty bought a new home at Babcock Ranch, Punta Gorda, Florida, America's first "solar city" to avoid that disease. Yet another fall landed Smokey back in hospital, and following discharge to another facility for therapy he became infected as that disease spread to multiple patients.
Then, Smokey was transferred to Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Florida, where he received week-long extensive treatment for Covid 19 including breathing assistance from a ventilator. Testing there also revealed near terminal kidney failure.
He is survived by wife Dotty at Babcock Ranch, and daughter Linda M.Roberts-Bickel, wife of John E. Bickel, who have lived in nearby Alva, Florida for the last 36 years, as well as grandsons Christopher and Jonathan Bickel, two great granddaughters, two great-grandsons, one great-great-granddaughter, and one great-great-grandson.
Smokey was a WWII Veteran. He served as Boatswain's Mate aboard the light cruiser USS St. Louis (CL49) and saw action in the Pacific theater until discharge in 1945.
As owner-operator of "Smokey's Diver's Den," 412 N. Duke St., Lancaster, Smokey was well-known as a world-renowned SCUBA diver and underwater cinematographer. He worked for National Geographic as well as NOAA on several special projects during his career, diving on many famous shipwrecks as well as descending in deep-submersible vehicles.
One high point was when he was named "Diver of the Year" at a meeting of the Boston Sea Rovers society and awarded a Rolex watch by Jacques Cousteau. He was a long-time friend of local treasure hunter Burt Webber, finder of the Silver Shoals sunken Spanish Galleon Conception, and Mel Fisher, of Atocha fame.
All who knew Smokey will remember his quick smile and willingness to help local authorities.
A living tribute »