H. Skillman Suydam

Born January 17, 1934 in New Brunswick, New Jersey
Departed September 6, 2023 in Rockledge, Florida

Skillman Suydam, age 89, of Melbourne, Florida, passed away with the Lord by his side on Wednesday, September 6, 2023 from natural causes at Vitas Hospice in Rockledge, Florida.

Skillman lived life as a champion, both as a water skier and in his Christian walk. Growing up on a lake in Orlando, Florida, both Skillman and his father, Henry Suydam, who had suffered the loss of his left arm, became enchanted with the sport of water skiing after visiting Cypress Gardens in 1948. It is told that Skillman stood under the “wishing tree” an prayed a blessing that he mightbecome a water skier who would make his parents proud. Indeed he did!
On their lake, using a row boat with a 22 horsepower Johnson motor and a pair of homemade water skis, father and son taught themselves to water ski. Both went on to compete, and eventually Skillman’s father became the water ski coach at Rollins College.
In 1949, following a trip to Cypress Gardens, where Skillman learned to jump, he entered the Dixie Water Ski Tournament and won the Junior Boys division. Renowned water ski coach, Dick Pope Jr., took an interest in Skillman and taught him the finer points of jumping. That same year Skillman also won the Junior Boys division at the Water Ski Nationals and successfully defended his title in 1950.
In 1951, Skillman skied in the Men’s Division at the Water Ski Nationals where he went head to head with his good friend, Dick Pope, Jr., for the Men’s Overall Champion. After several runoffs in slalom, Skillman edged out Pope to take the title. Skillman also competed in archery and pistol shooting.

Skillman went on to enjoy a varied and successful career working at Publix, Disney and as a realtor. Though he never had any children, Skillman maintained close lifetime friendships.
He made sure to credit his Christian faith for all his accomplishments. A member of Calvary Chapel Surfside, Skillman was dedicated to the Lord. He participated on their worship team and also in several men’s Bible study groups.

Skillman leaves behind his close friend of sixty years, Toddy McKeown, as well as his special friend, Alice Pinder and her daughters Debra Tyler and Zorida Diaz, and the Melbourne Fadden clan that welcomed Skillman as family.

Brownlie & Maxwell Funeral Home (1010 E. Palmetto Avenue, Melbourne, Florida 32901) will host A Celebration of Life service on Thursday, September 14 at 10 a.m. with a graveside service to follow.

Friends wish to acknowledge with sincere appreciation the caregivers who attended to Skillman during the last months of his life.


Calvary Chapel Surfside, 505 Cinnamon Drive, Satellite Beach, Florida 32937

USA Water Ski & Water Sports Foundation, 6039 Cypress Gardens Boulevard, #481, Winter Haven, Florida 33884

Rollins College Water Ski Team Gifts, PO Box 850001, Dept #9921, Orlando, Florida 32885

John 7:37-38
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Guestbook Entry

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3 entries.
Frank and Donna Rothery from Melbourne, FL wrote on September 10, 2023:
Skilman was a special friend.
Nathan Keller (son of Marcia, Skillman's sister) from San Diego wrote on September 9, 2023:
Cousin Barb received the call that Uncle Skillman had passed and let me know. She heard it from her brother Dick who heard it from Cousin Marianne. I wish I had known that he was in hospice. As you can see, Uncle Skillman had family in addition to his family and friends in Florida. He leaves behind a brother-in-law Robert Keller (husband of Marcia, Skillman's sister who passed in 2014), niece Julia Gilham and me, his nephew Nathan Keller, and my family (wife and children) all in San Diego. Christopher, thank you for those kind details and that insight. I loved to read that. I was going to point a few of those things out myself. Laverne, her children and grandchildren, and the proximity of the houses that he built and what kind of love and dedication that was an example of. It's also an example of Uncle Skillman's depth of character beyond the skiing narrative. Don't get me wrong, I love the ski-champion aspect of Uncle Skillman, I'm personally proud of it, but there's more to him than just that. His kindness, his generosity, his love. I can't write words to share the feel of his hugs when you are a kid, the smell of him, my grandparents, Florida in general, the St. Lucy river, and boat fuel haha...all a little bit intertwined. If you knew him long, you knew more recently he'd talk without getting enough air in his excitement to finish a sentence, but all the years prior to that, and even still, he had a deep, booming, comforting voice. We didn't agree on politics, but he never got mad talking on the phone. I think that speaks to the kind of person my uncle was. Even recently I think he was game to scooter around at Disney World if we could have magically driven out to FL. He wasn't a fan of us flying. As all of you reading this know, he will be missed.
Christopher Greenstein wrote on September 9, 2023:
He was with my grandmother, LaVerne (Mimi) since before I was born and helped raise my brother and I. He was the only real father figure we knew growing up and he was there nearly every day. He took me to NASA and got a black and white digital photo made of me when I was a baby in the early 80s. We would go out for launches every so often. Ever the gadget guy, he got me into computers- after a Commodore 64 when I was a few years old, he had just about every Apple in our home with Mimi from the earliest onward through the 90s. Always behind a camera, many of the highlights of childhood, Christmas, and candid moments throughout the year were captured by him. He got us into Disney every year with his passes. He took us to timeshares. I played tennis with him and his father (I was amazed at how nimble he could be with one arm). He often picked me up from school. He drove us to church. He was into gem cutting. He loved to take us metal detecting on the beach. We never found much, but those memories are a priceless treasure. Aside from shooting and skiing, he was once into knife throwing (he showed me a picture in a book he was in). I shared a room with him a couple years at his condo in Cocoa Beach in Jr High and High school before he finally built his house near Mimi’s so we could even walk back and forth. Water skiing aside, he could probably have held a record for loudest snoring. He taught me to shave. As a freshman, I shot on the Varsity team using his pellet rifle. We worked out on his bowflex. He taught me how to drive a boat, though he never took it out very often and never got around to teaching me to ski- one of both our regrets, but we still had lots of good memories… we tried learning the flute together and didn’t make it very far, but had a blast. I spent countless hours on his keyboard and later on his piano. So many episodes of Murder She Wrote. He brought in Taco Bell almost every night since neither he or Mimi really cooked. He taught me that cottage cheese works on a burrito or anything else in place of sour cream, so we always had a tub handy. Even after I moved away, went to college, and the service, and took a job out of state, and even after Mimi was taken from us, we stayed in touch, and he loved seeing pictures of my family and kids. It meant the world to me that he was proud of me. I let him know I was recovering from knee surgery and hoped to finally have the family down for another visit in the next few weeks. I got the call about him passing as I was reaching to call him to let him know of my other grandmother passing. It hurts to lose him as much as it did her, if not more so for the large role he played in my life. I could go on forever about how he always was there for us, and how much a role he played in our lives, with so many memories... For this obituary to say he didn’t have children isn’t quite true. He was our grandfather and more, through and through, in all but blood. Even as his memories were fading about other things we had talked about several times before, he was always encouraging and reminding me to have absolute faith, with no doubts- and so, I have absolute faith and no doubt that if anyone is with God, he is, and we will rejoice in Heaven together someday… but for now, I mourn.

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