Peter Edwin Hess

Peter Edwin Hess: Our son, brother, uncle, friend and dad

Peter passed away suddenly on January 12, 2012. He will be missed dearly by his family and friends, but mostly by his beloved son Benjamin. Peter was 52.

Peter was an avid shipwreck underwater explorer and maritime attorney for more than 30 years. His clients have been involved with the recovery of Spanish galleons, Gold Rush shipwrecks, windjammers laden with Oriental porcelain, 20th-century luxury liners, warships and warplanes, and sunken pleasure yachts. Peter led and/or participated in five archaeological expeditions to the 235-foot-deep USS Monitor.

It was Peter’s unyielding and passionate advocacy for divers worldwide that allowed access to historical wrecks, which led to the creation of several maritime and nautical exhibits throughout the world.

A Fellow in the Explorers Club, Peter served as the chairman of the Philadelphia Chapter from 1994 until 1998. He was elected to the club’s board of directors in 1996 and was appointed vice president for membership and to a second term. He was named chairman of the Explorers Club’s Legal Committee.

Peter was a serious history buff, putting to shame anyone who dared challenge him in Jeopardy. His love of war gaming started as a child, where he spent countless hours painting toy soldiers with great precision. He maintained lifelong friendships with fellow war gamers who replicated battles, particularly the Civil War.

Peter graduated from Brandywine High School. He earned his bachelor’s at the University of Virginia–which he believed firmly was the only university that truly mattered–then graduated from Tulane University Law School. He was considered an expert in the fields of exploration, maritime and admiralty law. He lectured throughout the world.

Peter was a vociferous Eagles fan. He loved to watch games with his son while devouring chicken wings. His Mardi Gras parties were legendary, and his love of life and people was evident in everything he did. He had a preference for ’70s clothing, which, amazingly, still fit and came back in style regularly.

Peter is survived and loved by his parents, Grayce and Sid Hess, his son Benjamin Hess, his friend and Ben’s mom Maria Hess, his sisters Debra Hess Norris (Bob Norris) and Diana Hess-Fisher (Mark Fisher), his nieces, Sarah and Maggie Norris and Paige Fisher, and his nephew, Brendon Fisher. He will be remembered fondly by many.

Peter never had a negative word to say about anyone. We will carry his optimism and generosity with us forever. His son will miss him so very much. Sail on, Peter.

Services will be held at Concord Presbyterian Church, 1800 Fairfax Blvd., Wilmington, DE 19803 on Saturday, January 21 at 11 am. A celebration of Peter’s life will follow the service in the church’s Fellowship Hall. Burial will be private.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Benjamin Hess College Fund, and may be mailed to: M&T Bank, Fairfax, 2301 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 19803. Please make the check payable to M&T Bank and please mention the Benjamin Hess College Fund in the memo.

Messages of condolence may be sent to:

This is a video put together based on the many photos provided by wreck diving and Explorer Club friends of Peter Hess, Esq. Peter lived for the moment, was eloquent and vivacious, loved to explore, shared his passions, loved shipwrecks and diving, and loved the dive community. Peter fought for access and divers rights. While many of us dive, Peter actually made historical dive moments possible for the entire community! We will miss you!

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