By John Christopher Fine
Dr. Sally Bauer spent her medical career in emergency rooms treating trauma patients. She married Dr. Joe Bauer, who studied medicine overseas and brought a new technique that he improved to the U.S. That technique enabled removal of infected gall bladders with microscopic surgery, effected through small openings in the torso instead of normal abdominal surgery fraught with complications and long recovery.
The Bauers’ interests turned to studying and raising tropical fish. Their research led to a love of oceans and diving. When they retired from medicine and moved to Islamorada, the couple were able to realize their dream, living at the edge of the ocean. Dr. Joe became fascinated with the history of diving and technology that enabled divers to work underwater. His purchase of one hard hat diving rig led to another, then another, until the Bauers accumulated one of the world’s most extensive collections of diving apparatus.
Love of books engendered development of a 3,500-volume library that included books about diving from the 1500s up to modern times. As storage for their collections continued to pose issues, the Bauers decided to create a museum. They bought and renovated a storage depot on Overseas Highway in Islamorada. Little by little their History of Diving Museum grew to become a premier attraction visited by thousands annually, with an outreach program to schools as well as offering learning opportunities through regular seminars and programs.
Membership in the museum includes free museum admission as well as discounts in the museum store. Dr. Joe Bauer died, leaving his wife Sally holding the reins of the museum with a dedicated staff and board of directors.
On Jan. 12, Dr. Sally Bauer was honored for her achievements at a gala event held at Cheeca Lodge. History of Diving Museum board members sought to honor Sally, who had been elected into fellowship of the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences. Dr. Bauer received the prestigious NOGI award, a statuette closely resembling the Oscar, in the area of ocean and maritime interest, in Las Vegas a couple of months before. That ceremony was held during annual Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) events. HDM board members decided it was fitting to continue the accolade in the Keys.
Islamorada Mayor Deb Gillis presented Dr. Bauer with a proclamation declaring Jan. 12, 2019 as Dr. Sally Bauer Day. Bauer also was presented with the Ocean Ranger Medal. This medal is only rarely awarded to those who have demonstrated deep and long-lasting commitment to ocean conservation. The medal was created for the United National Environment Programme with the Underwater Society of America many years ago to award young people that won first prizes in the International Poster Contest for Youth.
The History of Diving Museum became a sponsor of the contest last year, creating interest through Monroe County schools. HDM continues to sponsor this year’s contest as a driving force along with UNEP, Wyland Foundation, Guy Harvey Foundation, Billfish Foundation, Explorers Club, the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences, NAUI and other organizations dedicated to ocean interest and conservation.
The last recipient of the Ocean Ranger Medal, besides young contest winners, was Albert Falco, captain of Calypso in 1995 at a film festival on the island of Corsica.
In accepting the accolades Dr. Sally Bauer recalled the work and dedication her late husband put into the museum, clearly a labor of love by both Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer, shared with thousands of annual visitors to the Keys as well as offering outreach programs to schools, community events, lectures and traveling exhibits.
More information is at www.divingmuseum.com.