Biography and Tribute to Rick Latimer

by Martin Kandilas

[How many portholes?] [Rick's Homepage] [Loquinar Site]

Picture of Rick Latimer 1992 South Pacific Divers' Club and the diving community at large deeply mourn the passing of Rick Latimer. He was diagnosed in late 1995 as suffering an aggressive form of cancer, but being always so positive, Rick refused to let his emotions give light to this serious situation and few people knew of his plight. He ultimately lost the battle and quietly passed away at home an Tuesday 19th March, 1996. His wife and family were at his bedside.

More affectionately known to many old time members of South Pacific Divers' Club as "the black tick" and to a few close friends as simply "Bruno", Richard Francis Latimer was born in Melbourne on 24th March, 1943. He attended primary school Abbotsford and secondary school in Mornington and Brunswick, Victoria. After leaving school he enlisted in the army for 6 years, initially in the Armoured Corps and thence to catering, where he gained considerable knowledge of the culinary arts. Gaining the rank of Corporal, he met Anne in Sydney in 1963 and often hitch-hiked up from Melbourne to see her.

They married in Sydney in 1964 and moved to Melbourne, living in Collingwood until he left the army in 1968 and they decided to return to Sydney to live permanently. Rick worked briefly at a garage in Newtown while he gained his feet in new surroundings, whilst Anne worked for a Sydney bank.. His interest in diving led him to R.W. Gutherie (agents for US Divers) in 1970 and he became manager. He and Anne then moved to Georges Hall and Rick managed Aqua Sports (Yagoona, NSW) at the Old Cooper Road store in the early 1970's. In the mid 70's he ran a very successful bistro at the Bald Faced Stag Hotel at Petersham. The bar was adorned with wreck artifacts of all kinds, and the food was bloody good, too!

Rick commenced. a career in the insurance field in 1976, ultimately moving into private investigations in the early 1980's. At the time of his death he was a partner in a very successful Wollongong based firm.

Deco stop

Right: Decompression stop after another great dive. Time to practice those air rings. Photo: Mark Spencer

I met Rick in 1973 and we quickly became firm friends. I was diving a great deal in those days with another long-time buddy, Dave Bailey, and will never forget the quantum leap we made from reef diving to the "Birchgrove Park" wreck, courtesy of Rick. As a diver, I have yet to meet anyone who even came close to the abilities and prowess. He was incredibly aware and yet extremely relaxed in the water, with an uncanny way of knowing when things might go wrong. On many occasions. he was in the right place at very much the right time to assist divers in potentially grave situation.

He could blow air rings better than anyone I have seen and often amused himself on deco by slowly turning down a fellow diver's air supply or suddenly ripping off his mask!

As husband and father, Rick always put family first, and his sons David, Tony and Michael and daughter Kylie are all living testimony to that fact. He was always there for Anne and the kids. Rick was a larger than life character and one who would give and give and never ask for anything in return. Always in love with wrecks, he would often take relatively new and inexperienced divers under his wing for them to emerge as highly confident and always better offfor the experience.

Not one to suffer fools gladly, Rick could be incredibly stubborn when he knew he was right (and sometimes when he knew he was wrong!) But that was the attraction of the man. He was often brash but usually so good humoured that most people would accept his point. Few could argue with this huge man, particularly if he got them laughing.

Rick on Catterthun

Right: Exploring the wreck of the CATTERTHUN, in 60 metres off Seal Rocks, NSW. Rick was the first scuba diver to explore the wreck in the 1970's. Photo: Mark Spencer

He was an inspiration to many, many people and had a heart as big as anyone I have ever met. Always humble and self effacing, he never sought recognition or reward for his assistance. He was an inspiration to all at South Pacific Divers' and was a driving force behind the Australasian Underwater Photographer of the Year awards, being host for many years. Known widely in the diving industry throughout Australia and the Pacific rim, the tributes and huge attendance at his funeral bore strong testimony to the many people who knew and loved him.

Many years and over 500 dives with Rick have passed since my first encounter with the "Birchy". There was scarcely a bad dive in all of them, thanks to Rick's own peculiar brand of humor on the days when we all should have stayed in bed, Despite all of his prowess underwater however, "Bruno" was not quite as inspirational as a helmsman. He only knew two speeds - full stop or flat out. If anyone complained of a sore back (or kidneys) after being pounded relentlessly through a 2 metre chop at 30 knots, he would simply yell out "What are ya, a woose !" But he was the most extraordinary diver I have ever known.

A larrikin through and through, I wonder who could possibly imagine him being any other way. Whenever we dived a wreck (which was often) he would invariably sneak away to some hidey-hole to took for a goodie or two. But I could always find him. All I had to do was look for a great black cloud of silt, and there he was, in the thick of it.

That I think, sums up the man. He was always in the thick of it.

There was so much more to Rick than mere words could describe. We will all miss him so very much.

[How many portholes?] [Rick's Homepage] [Loquinar Site]