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Michigan dive team seeks info on history, new members

November 25, 2018

MARYSVILLE, Mich. (AP) — Don Evans, 91, first became interested in diving when he read about a drowning in the Black River. The Navy veteran would become an important early member of St. Clair County’s volunteer dive team. Over the years, the organization formalized into the institution it is today.

“When I joined this group, it wasn’t a team,” Evans told the Port Huron Times Herald .

He first became involved in scuba diving through a local club called the Fathom Finders. Local authorities such as the St. Clair County Sheriff Department had been calling on experienced divers to help them fish evidence out of the area’s waterways, and to look for bodies. Evans first started diving in 1957, and would help in the early days of the dive team when he and another early member, Bill Paterson, drove out to Houston, Texas to attend a scuba certification course in 1960.

“Bill Paterson was the king of SCUBA at that time around here,” Evans said. “He was always helping someone with their diving.

“I was really fortunate to get in the ground floor.”

In the early days equipment was hard to come by and aspiring divers practiced in the Marysville High School pool or at the YMCA. The team went from a more informal group, to being organized under Civil Defense and eventually becoming associated with the St. Clair County Sheriff Department.

Evans eventually became chief of the volunteer group until he retired in 1988. That was when he passed leadership of the group to Wayne Brusate, who currently serves as dive chief. Brusate had started as a student in Evans’s diving class, and Evans got to know Brusate as intelligent and forward thinking — always staying on the cutting edge of new equipment and techniques, Evans said.

“He would dig into anything related to diving,” Evans said. “By then I was starting to ask him questions, he was so on top of it.”

Brusate and Evans gave credit to other early divers like Paterson, Ray Jokie, Bill Ziedman, Don Arnett, Ron Arnett, Bob Kapanka, Chip Hillborn and Jack Howard for the trail they blazed.

The team is looking for more information on its other early members — seeking either photographs or information identifying currently unknown people featured in early photos. The team held an open house recently to show off some of their equipment and seek more information about their past. Past dive team members and their family members mingled and checked out the equipment on display.

“It brings back a lot of memories and they’re seeing a lot of new things,” Brusate said.

Dive team work requires dedication, Brusate said. Members of the all-volunteer group drive around with gear in their vehicles, ready to respond at any time of day. The team is always looking for new divers to join in, Brusate said. They need a basic scuba certification to start, and the team will provide the search and rescue training.

Evans said dedication, along with a supportive spouse, are crucial to staying with the team long term.

″(You) really got to have an interest there that is going to stay with you,” Evans said. “It takes a lot of everything to stay with it.”

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Information from: Times Herald, http://www.thetimesherald.com

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