Volunteer Diver Bill Godsey Logs 10,000 Hours At The Tennessee Aquarium

Monday, August 28, 2017 - by Thom Benson

When Bill Godsey fell in love with SCUBA diving in 1956, the sport was still very much in its infancy. And as best friends tend to do, they’ve grown older together.

Mr. Godsey became hooked on diving after dipping beneath the surface of a quarry in Hixson, Tenn., using equipment brought back by a friend who had served in the Navy. That experience sparked a passion for the sport that has defined Godsey’s life and helped him experience aquatic wonders at sites from Hawaii to the Red Sea.

“People ask me which is my favorite place to dive, and I say it depends on what you’re looking for,” said Mr. Godsey, now 82. “Whenever you dive, there’s always something different. It’s different everywhere you go.”

Despite his globetrotting experiences, Mr. Godsey has spent the bulk of his time underwater as a volunteer at the Tennessee Aquarium. In 1992, he was among the first group of five divers to volunteer at the Aquarium, where he has used his skills to train others and to educate the public about the aquatic world.

Today, Mr. Godsey received a commemorative pin and congratulations from Aquarium President and CEO Keith Sanford for exceeding 10,000 hours as a volunteer.

In all, the Aquarium has an active pool of more than 495 volunteers, including 184 volunteer divers. Volunteers’ roles range from interacting with the public during dive programs or as docents to preparing food for the animals. In 2016, the Aquarium’s volunteers devoted almost 64,000 hours of their time, the equivalent to more than 30 full-time positions.

“It’s amazing what our volunteers do,” Mr. Sanford said. “These folks contribute the equivalent of more than $1.5 million a year in volunteer labor for us and a whole lot of their heart in coming here every day. For Bill to achieve 10,000 hours, especially diving, is amazing. I’m just thankful and full of praise that someone can do that.”

This amount of service — equivalent to five years as a salaried employee — has been matched by only one other person in the Aquarium’s 25-year history. In 2015, volunteer Fran Hiestand was the first to pass this milestone.

“The next closest volunteer has about 5,600 hours of service,” said Manager of Volunteer Services Chris Bowman. “It’s hard to imagine anyone else reaching 10,000 hours again.”

The efforts of the Aquarium’s volunteer force have a tremendous impact on both the aquarium’s budget and the visitors’ experience. Clearly, it also has a positive impact on the volunteers as well, he adds. “Anyone who is approaching that 10,000-hour milestone is truly dedicated to the Aquarium. Obviously, Bill loves what he does. And what’s not to love? He gets to dive in a great environment.”

Mr. Godsey was among the first group of five divers to volunteer at the Aquarium when it opened on May 1, 1992. In his years of service, he has instructed aquatic safety courses, helped maintain dive equipment, overseen dive tests for other volunteers and served on the Aquarium’s dive safety control board.

Having someone with Mr. Godsey’s level of experience as a volunteer is a huge benefit, says Aquarium Dive Safety Officer Mark Craven.

“Bill brings an incredible amount of knowledge about all aspects of diving,” Mr. Craven said. “When he’s serving as topside dive support, I don’t have to worry about what’s going on with the in-water team. Their safety is in good hands.”

But Mr. Godsey said that, for his part, having one more pin to add to his badge isn’t a measure of the value of his years of service. That’s a sentiment that’s best presented in even simpler terms.

“I’ve loved SCUBA diving and helping people,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed all my time there and hope to continue.”

The Aquarium is always seeking additional volunteer SCUBA divers. Certified divers can check the requirements and download the volunteer diver application online. http://www.tnaqua.org/volunteer-opportunities/volunteer-diver  The next class of new recruits will begin training classes in January 2018.



The River Maze In Ocoee Returns For 13th Season

“Over the River and Thru the Woods” is the new, challenging design for the corn maze and “To Grandmother’s House We Go” is the theme of the soybean maze at Birch Land Ocoee Farms (home of The River Maze).  Miles of trails have intricately been carved into a corn field and a soybean field on the banks of the Ocoee River. The corn maze this year is a tribute to Grandma.  Guests ... (click for more)

Historic Rugby Writer’s Series Welcomes Sam Venable On Saturday

Historic Rugby continues its year-long series of writer visits on Saturday, with a reading by Sam Venable, renowned regional author and humorist. The reading is free and will be at the Rebecca Johnson Theatre in Rugby at 7 p.m. Eastern. The Harrow Road Cafe in Rugby will be open before the event for people who would like to enjoy dinner before the performance. Mr. Venable ... (click for more)

3 Separate Shootings Early Sunday Morning Leave 1 Critically Injured, Another In Serious Condition

Chattanooga Police responded to three shootings, early Sunday morning. Jelani Sorrell, 33, was injured in the first shooting.  Chattanooga Police officers responded at 1:26 a.m. to a person shot at the Sky Zoo Night Club.  Upon arrival they were able to locate Sorrell suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Sorrell was transported to a local hospital in critical ... (click for more)

Home Damaged By Fire In Lookout Valley Sunday Afternoon

A home was damaged extensively by fire Sunday afternoon in Lookout Valley. At approximately  3 p.m.,  the Chattanooga Fire Department dispatched multiple companies to  1203 O ’ Grady Drive in Lookout Valley for a smoke investigation. First arriving units found a large two-story house involved with heavy fire and smoke. An initial interior attack was ... (click for more)

Fix Obamacare, Don't Repeal It - And Response (2)

John McCain recently said, "I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full (Congressional Budget ... (click for more)

Roy Exum - ‘Let’s Talk Real Life’

In mid-November of 2015, the Missouri football team very unwisely went on strike. A black student had refused to eat until a list of racially-based demands were met. Some on the football team were sympathetic and it quickly morphed into the biggest catastrophe in the annals of higher education. The university would lose hundreds of millions, athletic donations dropped 72 percent, ... (click for more)