Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Navy vet, 83, fashions cheap solution to save children's museum exhibit

TAMPA

KidsPort was in bad shape.

The popular Glazer Children's Museum exhibit was about to be closed two to three months for a repair job estimated at $100,000 or more — a lot of money for a nonprofit with an annual budget of $2.8 million.

Some 60,000 visitors would miss a chance to frolic in the waters of the kiddy-style Port Tampa Bay mockup.

Then along came Bob Stanley, an 83-year-old Navy veteran who served as a welder during the Korean War.

Stanley would save the day.

• • •

KidsPort, visited by 1.4 million people during the museum's six years in operation, is all about water.

Some 1,800 gallons of it course through a 3,500-square-foot elevated pool, complete with toy boats, sea life, bridges and other fun features.

Kids delight in splashing around in it. But with all that commotion, water leaked out and ran down to the supports — 165 square metal tubes held up by rods made of ferrous metal, prone to rust.

And rust they did, forcing the museum to contemplate repairs it didn't want to make in an exhibit scheduled for replacement in another two years anyway.

• • •

For the past six years, three days a week, Stanley has driven 28 miles from his home in Gulfport to arrive by 4 a.m. outside the berth of the SS American Victory Ship Mariners Memorial Museum on Channelside Drive. He walks up into a space formerly called "Cargo Hold 4," turns on the lights, brews coffee and dons his welder's mask.

The mask is adorned with the image of a flaming skull, chains in its mouth.

"Not my style," he said with a gruff laugh. "But it was cheap. And it works. So I bought it."

That's Stanley's outlook on life in a nutshell, shaped by an upbringing in Toledo, Ohio, and honed by five years in the Navy followed by a stint with the piledrivers union, welding all manner of things.

This outlook is how he saved the day.

• • •

The Glazer Children's Museum is near and dear to the hearts of the Propeller Club — a group created to boost Port Tampa Bay.

"We were having problems with leaks and rusting and mildew and different things, and we were going to have to take the whole exhibit out," said club member Sandra Murman, a Hillsborough County commissioner. "And this wonderful man found this very simple fix for a very small amount of money."

• • •

After Stanley showed up at the SS American Victory, Cargo Hold 4 got a new name — Stanleyville. He has filled the once-empty space with tools and equipment from his personal collection, like a drill press, band saw, belt sander, pipe bender and hydraulic press.

During a visit with his son Ryan in 2011, Stanley was asked if he'd like to help fix up the American Victory — a restored cargo ship that saw action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and is similar to a ship he served aboard.

"All they had was this little bitty welding table set up," he recalled.

Stanley jumped at the chance to help and now dedicates hours of his time to the task.

Said Tom Procopio, the ship's operations manager: "This guy is amazing."

• • •

When he first heard about the plight of the children's museum, Bill Kuzmick, president of the SS American Victory museum and member of the Propeller Club, offered help from seasoned volunteers like Stanley.

So a few months ago, Stanley visited the children's museum. He put on his knee pads, spent half an hour checking out the exhibit, went to lunch at Wendy's, then returned to Stanleyville.

He grabbed some tubing and other scraps around the shop, and in less than an hour fashioned a solution — an adjustable stainless steel device that would fit into the KidsPort footings and replace the rusting stands. The replacements would not rust.

The museum provided a welder and an argon tank to cut the stainless steel to Stanley's specifications, shelling out just $3,000.

Then Stanley went to work, welding together all the pieces. Each morning, after making the coffee back in his shop, he would fashion more assemblies.

"They needed 165," he said, pointing to boxes full of the new supports. "I got them all made."

• • •

The KidsPort repair was a win-win for Stanley. He loves working with metal and helping kids.

"I'm glad we could save it and keep it going," he said. "I'm just glad I was able to help out. We have to do everything we can for the kids nowadays."

KidsPort never posed a safety threat, said museum officials, but now it can stay open as long as they had planned.

"KidsPort is a well-loved exhibit," said museum president and chief executive Jennifer Stancil, "so we are thrilled with the out-of-the-box thinking that will increase its longevity."

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

Navy vet, 83, fashions cheap solution to save children's museum exhibit 04/21/17 [Last modified: Monday, April 24, 2017 10:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.
  2. Jones: Where are the difference-makers on the Bucs defense?

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — They can't tackle. They can't cover. They can't pressure the quarterback, let alone sack him.

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) scrambles past Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (98) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Bucs-Bills journal: Breakout game for Bucs tight end O.J. Howard

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It's obscured by the final score and a disappointing loss, but Bucs rookie tight end O.J. Howard had a breakout game Sunday, exceeding his season totals for catches and touchdowns in one afternoon.

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) celebrates a touchdown catch with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Vladislav Namestnikov is Lightning's top-line 'secret'

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Nikita Kucherov is piling up the goals. Steven Stamkos is an assist machine. They make for an impressive pairing in a league that favors scoring pairs over the more traditional three-player scoring lines.

    Vladislav Namestnikov (90) has three goals and 10 points on a line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.
  5. Bucs-Bills report card: Grading the Bucs' 30-27 loss at Buffalo

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Hard to believe, but this was only the second time in their history that the Bucs played a regular-season game in Buffalo. After Sunday loss, they wouldn't mind going another 40 years without playing here again.

    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, seen during the first half, had a heck of a day calling plays, Tom Jones writes. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]