Dr. Sally Bauer spent her medical career in emergency rooms treating trauma patients. She married Dr. Joe Bauer in 1969. After developing the techniques in Europe, Dr. Joe introduced videoscopic surgery for gall bladder disease to the Northeast United States in the 1970s. Instead of opening a big door in the abdomen doctors operate through a little keyhole. Patients have little pain and a quick recovery after this surgery. Previously abdominal surgery was fraught with complications and long patient recovery.
Article and photos by John Christopher Fine
The Bauers’ interests turned to a love of oceans and diving, which led them to study and raise tropical marine fish and observe reproductive behavior. After diving in the Florida Keys since the mid-1960s, the Bauers retired from medicine and moved to Islamorada in 1997; the couple realized their dream of living at the edge of the ocean. The Bauers became fascinated with the history of diving and technology that enabled divers to work underwater. Their purchase of one hard hat diving rig led to another then another until they had accumulated one of the world’s most extensive collections of diving apparatus in the world.
Love of books engendered development of a 3,500-volume library that included books about diving from the 1500s up to modern times. In a desire to share their historical collection with others, the Bauers decided to create a museum. In 2003 they bought and renovated a storage building on Overseas Highway (US 1), 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.
Dr. Joe Bauer died in 2007 leaving his wife Sally holding the reins of the museum with a dedicated staff and Board of Directors.
On January 12, 2019, 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 nominated then elected into fellowship of the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences. Dr. Bauer received her 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 had been held during the annual Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) events. HDM board members decided it was fitting to continue the accolade in the Keys.
Sylvia Murphy, Mayor of Monroe County, presented Dr. Bauer with a proclamation. Mayor Deb Gillis of Islamorada issued a decree proclaiming January 12, 2019 “Dr. Sally Bauer Day”. In a surprise presentation, Dr. Bauer was presented with the Ocean Ranger Medal. This medal is only rarely awarded to outstanding recipients that have demonstrated deep and long-lasting commitment to ocean conservation. The medal itself 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 wide spread interest through Monroe County schools. HDM continues to sponsor this year’s contest as a driving force along with UNEP, the USA, Explorers Club, 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 adult 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. The medal’s obverse contains the Ocean Charter adopted many years ago by UNEP and the International Oceanographic Foundation as a milestone commitment to ocean conservation.
In accepting the accolades Dr. Sally Bauer recalled the work and dedication her late husband Dr. Joe Bauer 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.
Membership in the History of Diving Museum is available to locals and visitors alike. Annual dues include free museum admission as well as discounts in the museum store. For more information, go to www.DivingMuseum.org or call 305-664-9737.