Extremely sad news - Leon Slavin has died

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Posted by Ken Kurtis on March 23, 2006 at 21:34:37:

I cannot even begin to convey how sad I am to have to tell you that Leon Slavin died last night (Wednesday).

We last saw Leon at the end of last week and he seemed fine. His good friend Alfons Stettler said he talked to Leon late yesterday afternoon and nothing seemed amiss. In fact, Leon was supposed to come over and borrow a copy of "Shadow Divers" from Alfons. One of Leon's nieces talked to him in the evening and she said that Leon mentioned he wasn't feeling well. As best I can tell he continued not to feel well and may have gone back into his apartment and called paramedics to come over. Shortly after that, according to his mother (who was with him), he simply laid down on the floor. The paramedics arrived shortly after that and there was apparently nothing they could do.

We will miss Leon terribly. He certainly had a lot of friends in the diving community. He was probably one of the sweetest, most unassuming people you'd ever want to meet and a "character" in the absolutely best sense of the word. This was not only a person who loved diving, but I think diving was something that truly changed his life. He would tell me time and again how he didn't know what he'd be doing if he hadn't discovered diving. It was almost like a religion to Leon.

And diving generated a bunch of wonderful, amusing, and fun "Leon" stories. There was the time that he was with us in the Sea of Cortez and wanted to try his hand at kayaking. He got in and as he pushed away from the boat, you just knew this was a capsize-in-the-making. Sure enough, the kayak wobbled left, wobbled right, and over he went, leaving his trademark Panama hat floating on the surface. But best of all, he managed to rise under that so it was back on his head as he surfaced and he proudly held up his pack of cigarettes that he managed to save.

Leon was also fascinated by nudibranchs. There was probably nothing more he liked photographing (with his disposable cameras in an old Ikelite housing) than nudibranchs. He was always on the hunt for new ones and enjoyed trying to figure out what a new photo subject was. And just diving in general was a joy to him. He would wax poetic about what he'd seen on his dive and was always happy to share stories (or hear them) with others. And he would get excited planning his next trip, local or foreign, and you could just see the joy that diving gave him.

I've attached one of my favorite pictures of Leon. To me, it captures a lot of the image I'll have of him: white Panama hat along with that blue wetsuit that made him look like Papa Smurf.

As you can understand, things are in a state of flux right now with regard to his family. There will most likely be a service Monday or Tuesday. I will forward information to you via e-mail when I know what's going on for those who might like to attend.

I have also suggested to the family that, given how much Leon adored diving, and given his support of and "association" with the Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber, that it might be appropriate to establish a "Leon Slavin Memorial Fund" in his name, raise as much as we can between now and May 3, and donate that amount as part of the Chamber Challenge in Leon's name. Nothing's set up yet so I'll also keep you posted on that.

To say that Leon was unique would be an understatement. To say that Leon will be missed is an understatement. And to say that those of us who knew him had our lives enriched by knowing Leon would also be an understatement. I'm going home to have a drink and toast his memory and I hope you will also remember our friend Leon Slavin in whatever way seems appropriate for you.

- Ken
Ken Kurtis
NAUI Instr. #5936
Co-owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
Beverly Hills, CA

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