2019 Wall of Fame Recipient, Gary Hites



Degrees and Certifications:

2019 Wall of Fame Recipient, Gary Hites

Gary Hites enlisted in the U.S. Navy after his 1969 high school graduation. Following boot camp in San Diego, he was sent to Radio School and then elected to train as a Navy Seal. For the next six years he performed highly classified operations for our country in locations throughout the South Pacific, Western Pacific and Southeast Asia, including two tours in Vietnam.

In 1972 Gary was selected to train for the Apollo 17 Space Mission Recovery Team. The team was tasked with bringing the 3 astronauts from space capsule safely to the ship and they fully recovered the capsule and parachutes from the water.

In 1975 the brave efforts of Gary’s team saved many lives during the U.S. evacuation of Vietnam.

Gary and his team also participated in “fun” efforts off the coast of Malibu, where they undertook the safety of the cast and crew and performed the underwater rescue of passengers during the filming of the movie "Airport 77" with Jimmy Stewart and Jack Lemmon. Gary's final assignment with the Navy was as a Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Instructor.

After leaving the service in 1977, Gary owned and operated an underwater salvage and recovery company, California Marine, in San Diego where Gary salvaged many boats in the waters of southern California. Gary's company also supplied and operated a fire/rescue boat for the World Powerboat Championships in Mission Bay.

Because of his well-known knowledge of water dynamics, the Ford Motor Company hired Gary to develop a frame to hold a car on top of a small submarine for one of their television commercials.

In the early 80's Gary returned to Ohio to work with his family's business (Atwood Lake Boats) in sales and marina management.

Gary's passion for diving and working on the water eventually took him to Port St. Joe, Florida where he bought a struggling boat rental operation that included a dive boat and a 30- passenger snorkel/sightseeing/sunset viewing boat. Seahorse Water Safaris became a successful tourist business. Customer reviews of Gary as captain, his knowledge of area history and water education lead to his appearance on HGTV's "Beachfront Properties" and "Bringing Up Bates" TV shows.

Gary's company was hired to work for the BP Oil company during the cleanup of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, transporting workers, dignitaries and the press out on the bay waters, and CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewed Gary about the oil spill’s effects on scalloping in St. Joseph Bay.

Several times a year Gary volunteered his time and captained the snorkel boat "Island Queen" for "Blue Skies,” an organization for terminally ill pediatric cancer children, providing educational water adventures. Gary also organized and ran a special event called the "Kids Win Fishing Tournament" for six years, where his participants grew from 24 kids in the first year to 536 in the last.

Gary and Julie retired to SW Florida where he continues to live an active life, traveling, to Central America, Europe and England. He is a professional scuba diving instructor and carries a Merchant Marine 100 Ton Masters license. In 2018, he co-piloted a 45' trawler up the lntercoastal Waterway from South Florida to Upper New York state.

  • Who Will Be Our Next Wall of Fame Inductee?

    Do you know a Sandy Valley alum who you feel deserves to be honored? Please considered submitting an application on their behalf. We are always happy to showcase outstanding members of our Cardinal family!

    Nominations for our Wall of Fame alumni can be made at any time, but the deadline to submit a nomination is March 1, 2020. Please click on the link below for the nomination form.

    Wall of Fame Nomination Form