Diveheart Helps Blind Korean War Vet Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Submersion of Christ of the Abyss Statue

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Chicago resident and Korean War veteran Gabe Spataro is responsible for delivering major underwater tourist attraction

The Christ of the Abyss statue is one of the most famous and popular underwater destinations in the world, drawing thousands of divers annually. “I’ve been told that visitors to the statue have brought millions of tourism dollars to the area,” said Jim Elliott, founder/president of Chicago based Diveheart. “It is fascinating that one Chicago area man was responsible for bringing it to its site, and I’m proud that Diveheart has been able to help him visit it.”

In 1965, Korean War Veteran Gabe Spataro of Chicago was responsible for bringing Christ of the Abyss statue from Italy to the Florida Keys. The 9-foot tall, 4,000-pound bronze statue is in Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park off of Key Largo, Florida. Egildio Cressi donated the statue to the Underwater Society of America, and Spataro coordinated the logistics of having it transported from Italy to Chicago’s Navy Pier, and finally to its final resting place in Key Largo, Florida.

Spataro, who had been an avid scuba diver since 1956, gave up his hobby when he became blind from macular degeneration. As a patient at Hines VA Hospital in Chicago, he learned about Diveheart, which provides scuba diving instruction and opportunities to children, adults and veterans with disabilities. Through Diveheart, Spataro resumed participating in the sport that he loves. In 2013, Diveheart assisted Spataro in visiting the underwater statue which he brought to Florida. He returned this month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the statue’s submersion. On his recent visit, Spataro placed two wreaths over the statue’s outstretched arms. “One was to honor those who have lived, worked, and played at sea,” said Spataro. The second was for “those who fought and died at sea.”

On August 25th, Spataro will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the momentous occasion. “We are thrilled to be able to honor Gabe and the contribution he made to Florida,” said Elliott.

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Wendy Foster
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