(DIVERWIRE) Charles Richard Blakeslee was born October 29, 1925, in Manitou, OK. His father was a telegraph and station operator on an oil pipeline; his mother was a housewife. The family lived in southwestern Missouri before moving to Southern California when Chuck was 13. He attended Lynwood and Clearwater junior high schools then Compton High School and Compton Junior College. He also took several technical courses relating to the oil industry and maritime radio.
After working as a machinist in the shipyards and aircraft industries during WWII, Chuck was employed by Texaco, Inc. as a lab technician, essentially in bacteriology, for nine years in Long Beach, CA.
In 1948 Chuck married Geraldine (Jeri) Stone, who became his lifelong diving companion. They had four children, Chris, Jim, Carol and Renee.
Chuck started diving in 1946, as did James “Jim” Jennings Auxier. Both men went to Compton High. Since Chuck was three years older they didn’t get to know each other until after graduation, when they met at a Compton Dolphins dive club meeting (they both became members). Jim was a printer for a newspaper, a trade he learned and practiced at Compton High. The men shared many of the same interests and, in 1951, they co-founded The Skin Diver, later called Skin Diver Magazine. They were co-publishers/co-owners of the magazine and alternated as President and Vice-President. In addition, Jim served as Editor and Chuck as Advertising Manager.
The first issue of The Skin Diver was black and white, though it had a two-color cover. There were 16 pages (including the cover), two underwater photos and some topside pictures. The issue cost 25 cents; readers could get a one-year subscription for $3. Chuck and Jim published the magazine for 12 years before selling it to Petersen Publishing in 1963. It was the largest and oldest publication of its kind when it was discontinued in 2002, one issue short of its 51 birthday.
Under Chuck and Jim, The Skin Diver Magazine of the 1950s and ’60s was, for the most part, the only American source of reference material relating to recreational diving, its activities, personalities and the manufacturers and retailers of early diving equipment. Many myths existed about the history of skin diving as so few records were kept early on. Skin Diver began to investigate, to record, to follow and dispute, to compare and add to, and to question. It was a forum for divers and historians, a place to post one’s opinion and ideas.
Chuck and Jim received their LA County Diving Instructor’s Certificates in the second UICC in 1954 and NAUI affiliate status in 1963. Chuck invented the CO2 speargun, the Barracuda, and received a patent for it in 1953.
Chuck was a regular contributor to Colliers Encyclopedia Yearbook and Selling Sporting Goods, was a member of the Board of Directors of the International Film Festival, a NAUI organization participant, and served on numerous ad hoc committees, such as that of selecting and promoting the Diver’s Flag. He appeared at numerous California Fish and Game meetings in support of divers’ rights and beach access and served as an advocate for safety in diving through restriction of ads determined not to be safe.
After Skin Diver was sold, Chuck moved to Carpinteria, CA, where he was an avocado farmer for 23 years. He later moved to Grass Valley, CA, and then to Nevada City, CA. He continued to dive regularly for many years, both locally and overseas.
In 1960, Chuck and Jim became the first recipients of the NOGI Award for the Arts. They were inducted into the DEMA Diving Hall of Fame in 1994 and the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame in Grand Cayman in 2003.
Chuck died April 17, 2012, in Nevada City after a short illness. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Jeri, and their four children: sons Chris (Mary) and Jim (Trisha), daughters Carol Dalton (Lowell) and Renee.
Contributions may be made in his memory to Hospice of the Foothills, the Ocean Conservancy, or any of the many organizations supporting the environment, the developmentally disabled, or the organization of your choice.