Rudy Lewis

Kentuckian's shipwrecked artifacts to go on tour

By Byron Crawford

As a lifeguard at Las Vegas' Sahara hotel during his younger days, Rudy Lewis never imagined diving to the Atlantic Ocean's floor to recover historic artifacts aboard centuries-old ships.

The entrepreneur and developer who lives near Simpsonville, Ky., recounted his life's journey recently while putting several cannons from Spanish shipwrecks into a small stream on his farm.

There they would remain preserved from further exposure to the air until they could be properly treated, refurbished and used as educational exhibits.

In the years since Lewis learned about diving from Navy "frogmen" whom he met as a lifeguard in the late 1950s, he has honed his skills along treacherous coral reefs on which many ships broke apart during hurricanes and sank with sometimes valuable cargoes.

As owner of several sport-fishing charters south of Florida's Key Largo years ago, he was lured farther out to sea by stories told by wreck divers who passed through the Keys with treasures salvaged from 17th- and 18th-century wrecks on distant reefs.