In 1996, Kevin Mulvey told his friend, George Pellington, a story about a little boy who had been entrapped by the drain in a residential spa. “If not for the father’s vigilance, the boy may have died,” Pellington said. “Kevin was determined to invent a device that would mitigate body suction entrapment on pool and spa drains.”
The two first met in 1993, when Pellington was working in the water treatment industry. Mulvey was president of Miami Filter Inc. at the time.
“Kevin was dedicated to customer support and quality manufacturing,” Pellington recalled. “His company was an important supplier to us, and over the years, he and I became good friends. I truly respected Kevin. He loved to solve problems and meet customer needs. He also had a passion for child aquatic safety.”
When Mulvey heard about the boy’s near miss, he came up with the preliminary design for a new safety device, then contacted friend and machinist Marv Ruschell. The two of them built a prototype unit and a traveling display.
This was the start of a new business, Vac-Alert Industries, which began producing safety vacuum release systems in 1998.
Paul Pennington, president of the Vero Beach, Fla.-based company from 2000 to 2010, said Mulvey was always looking to make things better. “Kevin started tinkering in his dad’s shop as a kid. He was one of those people who’d wake up in the middle of the night with an idea — a new butterfly valve or whatever, it didn’t even have to be for a swimming pool — and he’d make it happen. He was just that kind of guy.”
Ron Schroader, aquatic safety consultant and family friend, said we will never know how many young lives were spared due to this invention. “Kevin was a genius. He would see a product, study it, disassemble it, sand it, weld something and reassemble it. It would work better than the original product,” Schroader said. “We in the pool industry will miss him. He was a great person.”
Mulvey’s other passion was his family. Originally from Pittsburgh, he lived in White City, Fla., until the time of his death. He is survived by his five children and a brother, sister, and three grandchildren. When Mulvey retired from Miami Filter in 2010, two of his sons took over the Fort Pierce, Fla., business, founded in 1959 by Jack Mulvey, their grandfather. “Dad was very family oriented,” Jeremy Mulvey said. “My brother, Shane, and I grew up in the business, which caters to the commercial aquatics industry and marine life support, and recently expanded into industrial filtration and water treatment. .. The wisdom and experiences he shared with us will forever serve as a guide for success acquired through hard work, perseverance and innovation.”
In his spare time, Mulvey liked to scuba dive, and frequently dove in the waters off Florida’s Treasure Coast. He liked to explore the ships that sank there in 1715, and purchased diving rights to those sites. He also had a classic car collection.
“Kevin never lost his love for inventing nor his commitment to aquatic safety,” George Pellington said. “Miami Filter, now managed by Kevin’s sons, continues in the spirit of his commitment to manufacture quality filtration systems for [a variety of] applications. Kevin will be missed, but his legacy lives on in the lives of the many individuals he positively impacted.”