Alumni Stories

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James R Diehl

James R Diehl

Class of 1965

June to November marks the official Hurricane Season for the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico. As active as the seasons have been in the past couple of years, it is imperative that Belize has great people at the front to monitor and assist should in case a threat arise. This week, we proudly feature someone that has been at the front of operations – Jim Diehl.
Jim was born to John and Mary Diehl of Butler, Pennsylvania, USA on January 14th, 1947. Because his father was an Army Chaplin, Jim along with three sisters and one brother moved from Pennsylvania to Cincinnati where he attended Garfield Elementary until the family was uprooted once more. This time they moved to Baltimore, Ohio.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Jim’s father died when Jim was only 10 years old. At the age of 11, Jim started working as a newspaper delivery boy for the Eagle Gazette Daily. Every morning, he along with other boys, would fold the paper and then each go on their route.

After elementary school, Jim enrolled in Lancaster High School. In 1965, he entered the Navy which was also the course his brother had taken. As a recruit and later as a sailor, Jim traveled through 35 countries. While in the United States and stationed in Virginia he had a 14 to 16 week training where he learned to work on assault boats, where he took care of cargo handling, firefighting and the controls of chemical weapons. Within a year of working on board a navy ship, Jim became Bowsin mate. As a Bowsin, he had to learn the job of every officer on board. Knowing each job made him highly important since once someone was missing or sick, he could easily fill in.

While in the Navy he took classes at three universities studying science and art. For the next two years, Jim was stationed at Roosevelt Roads in la Cieba, Puerto Rico. After leaving the navy, he went to work for the Applied Physics Laboratory at John’s Hopkins University where he learned Underwater Electronic Research. With this skill he was then able to work with the Ministry of Defense where he advised government. Any equipment that was offered to government, Jim was on a team that tested them to make sure that it was operational and met government standard before a big purchase.

Unfortunately a couple of years was all that Jim could last in this position because he developed Epilepsy. This came as the result of an accident that he had suffered when he was in the Navy. Jim moved back to Ohio where he opened a small import store where he sold lamps, carpets, jewelry, and furniture. Being there allowed him the freedom to begin expressing his art.

In 1974, Jim’s friend a seismologist paid a visit to San Pedro. His friend bought property on the island and after a while Jim decided to visit. A visit was not enough and he returned home only to pack and sell most of his stuff in order to move to La Isla Bonita. Here in San Pedro, Jim has given back to the community. He had been active in police department, the Citizen’s Crime Committee, Immigration Department and the fire department.

Today, Jim takes great pride in taking part of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO). As Emergency Operations Center Supervisor/Deputy Operations Officer for both the NEMO and the San Pedro Emergency Committee (SPEC) for the island, Jim assists in any tropical disaster or possible disaster. He keeps track and studies every storm throughout the season.

Jim still remains with his passion for art and is the owner of Stoned Art Studio, where he crafts pieces out of stone. Open from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, Jim keeps busy with what has always been his love –art.

In 2005, along with dear friend Frank Panton, a scientist and former chief meteorologist for Belize, they started Panton-Diehl Applied Physics, a think tank to help young scientists and commercial entities with their various projects.

Forming a part of our community has always been important to Jim. Being involved in many community departments has allowed him to see the various needs of Ambergris Caye and in so doing has made him a very important part in NEMO and SPEC. Because of his love for Ambergris Caye, Jim Diehl has proven to be a very important part of “Our Community.”

Jim now lives in Washington, NC with his high school sweetheart, Shirley Boerstler of Lancaster, OH. He's currently volunteering with " Gathering of Eagles" a support group for Veterans. He has three children and 4 grandchildren.

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