Sunday, June 07, 2009

Del Monroe (1936-2009)

I am deeply saddened by the loss of one of my childhood icons. Del Monroe, who played Seaman Kowalski on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea passed away on Friday. Voyage was the show I spent more hours watching in my youth than any other. It (and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) started my enduring love of submarines and sent me applying to Annapolis -- except they wouldn't let women on submarines back then (they still might not) which derailed my intended career as a submarine captain (much to my dad's relief).

While I loved every character on the show, Captain Crane and Kowalski were my two original favorites, and I can't honestly say which one I liked better. One was an officer, the other a crewman, and they got to do different things on the show. Kowalski got in on plenty of adventures and action, from piloting the flying sub, to being taken over by aliens, to being nearly blinded, to simply manning his station. Kowalski was always cheerful, always enthusiastic, and always looked like he was having a blast, no matter whether he was facing spies or mad scientists or crazy alien monsters. Watching the show, he made me feel that excitement too. It was part of the joy of watching the show. Sure, there were some bad cheesy eps, but they were almost always still fun. And the good episodes just stood out even more. Or the episodes that were so outrageous they're good (I'm thinking "Deadly Dolls" here... Vincent Price, the opening puppet show, and the Nelson puppet's absolutely hilarious dialog and one-liners put this ep easily on my top ten list... yeah, I'm serious. I think my family quotes that doll's lines more often than any other character's dialog from the show, period! Back before VCRs, we used to sit beside the tv with a tape recorder and my mom would hold it up beside the tv's speaker and record our favorite parts so we could replay them when we wanted. We also recorded our entire favorite eps that way. Ahhh, the good ol' days.)

I even had a red jumpsuit and white sailor's hat I used to wear. Wore it quite a bit too. Yes, I am a dork.

Del Monroe guested on various tv shows and movies throughout his career, and I was always excited to see him whenever he appeared, but his work on Voyage is what I will always remember him for. Even though I've never met him, the world is an emptier place knowing he isn't around any longer.


  1. Anonymous8:47 PM

    I take pride in knowing that people admire my grandfather and hope there are more people like you that truly appreciated his career. I think that if you met him, he'd have changed your life even if you'd only met him for a second. He was an amazing husband to my grandmother, father to his children, and grandfather to his grandchildren and will never be forgotten. It feels wonderful knowing that people appreciated him and will miss him as much as we will.

    1. I had the privilege of living across the street from Mr. Monroe when he lived on Peach Ave. in Van Nuys, California. His kids, especially the oldest boy, was a frequent playmate of mine. Mr. Monroe was always such a nice man. I have fond memories of him.

    2. Anonymous9:07 PM

      I too was an admirer of your grandfather here in Canada. I still look him as Kowalsky with great pleasure on DVD's. I'm happy to know he was a real nice and loveable person. Must say he was kind of specially handsome too.

    3. Anonymous9:35 PM

      Mr.Monroe your grandfather was my favorite character on Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea. Another important part of my youth has passed into history and that always gives me a cold hollow feeling in my gut. Consider yourself a very fortunate individual for having that connection with your grandfather. Rest in Peace Mr. Monroe

    4. Anonymous3:50 PM

      Your Dad was my next door neighbor in Van Nuys when I was a child. Chris and I were good friends at the time. Ask Cris if he remembers the incident at the Solodad Sands "father/son" camp-out. I will never forget the ruckus that Del caused that night.
      Good Memories.
      I would like to get in touch with Chris again.
      Please have him look me up on LinkedIn.
      Ken Kabz... Let's see if he remembers the rest.

  2. I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for commenting here. Your description of how he was off screen brings a smile to my face, and I do wish I'd had the opportunity to meet and thank him for his work.

  3. I used to watch "Voyage" all through its first run every Sunday night on ABC. All of us kids did...had all the toys too. Its a shame how the media never gives notice to solid actors who worked for years in certain genre shows. I only found out today about Del's passing since Irwin Allen would have been 93 today. Everyone knew Kowalski and his creator Del Monroe. May he rest in eternal peace.

  4. Aw, this is a nice piece, Deb. Very heartfelt.

    I'm sorry you lost one of your childhood icons.

    And how sweet to know that he was a wonderful man in real life!


    I hope you're doing well.

  5. I've met Del and Linda a number of times over the years and they are great people. Del will be missed by a lot of us. He was always fun to talk to and was an integral member of the Irwin Allen world.


  6. They don't have heroes today the way we did when we were kids. Actors and characters even our parents could be proud if we tried to be like them. Kowalski was one of these characters. Sorry I never got a chance to tell Del how much I admired and looked up to the character he developed.

  7. Thanks, everyone, for commenting. It's nice to know there are a lot more Voyage and Del Monroe fans out there than it seems sometimes.


    They don't have heroes today the way we did when we were kids.

    Tallest Mountain -- isn't that the truth?

  8. Emerson Oliveira8:48 PM

    Realmente muito Brasil esta série fez um grande sucesso, e sem dúvida Kowalski (Del Monroe) era um de meus heróis da infância...sentiremos saudades !!!

  9. Anonymous2:33 PM

    I am watching him right now on an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I have all of the shows from all of the season. I especially enjoy Kowalski's character.

  10. Anonymous10:02 PM

    I'm sad to hear the news about "Kowalsky". I happen to be watching the whole Voyage series by DVD, now. I also remember seeing Del Monroe in one episode of The Time Tunnel. Well, he was a great actor. He will be missed.

  11. I, too, was saddened to hear of the loss of Mr. Monroe. I remember as a kid watching "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea" every Sunday night at 7PM. I just watched an episode of Gunsmoke he was in and, of course, Walking Tall. RIP.

  12. Anonymous1:41 PM

    i stumbled across this post while looking for images of the old "voyage to the bottom of the sea" for ideas for a tribute to my grandpa. He was easily one of the most charming, charasmatic, loving, and genuine people that i have ever known and am privaleged to see that his admirable qualities are visible to those who never had the pleasure of meeting him. thank you for your kind words and admiration. it means a lot to know that my grandfathers spirit lives on in the hearts of many :)

  13. Thanks to all who have left comments here, and to those related to him, my deepest condolences. The more I hear about him, the more I admire him, and the more I appreciate his performances. One of the things I'm looking forward to is introducing my young nephew to Voyage when he's a little older and watching him enjoy the show as well. I can't wait to find out who his favorite character is going to be.

  14. I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Del (Kowalski) Monroe. I also grew up watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in first run episodes then in syndication I loved the show then and still to this day.

    Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea will always have a special place in my heart and the crew of the Seaview were like family to me although I cared about all of them Del Monroe was my favorite cast member.

    I can still remember after every episode my best friend and I would go in the backyard and replay that days episode, we would take turns playing each characters role but our favorite cast member to play was that of Kowalski, Godspeed Del Monroe.

    Secure the flying sub, close all water-tight doors and hatches, have damage control parties standby and prepare to crash dive!

  15. Anonymous2:54 PM

    I met Del a few times & went camping with him one weekend with his kids & stepdad. It was ~1972. I lived in Lawndale, CA down the street from his mom & stepdad, Earl. He was a great guy.

  16. Anonymous2:16 PM

    Del Monroe has more VTBOTS fans than you can imagine...most of us are soon-to-retire babyboomers now. Where did the time go? David Hedison still looks his terrific, debonaire self for 85.

    Lee L (Palm Bch Gdns, FL)

  17. Thanks again to all the new people who have stopped by and added their experiences and thoughts on Del Monroe. It is so wonderful to know that he affected so many more people with his role as Kowalski. I never realized how popular his character was.

  18. Anonymous5:19 PM

    Del Monroe was born in 1932, not 1936. I knew him well, we both ran on the Inglewood High School Track Team. Del Monroe specialty was the Half mile Run