My grandfather, Fred Clemenz, was a man that always had a smile on his face. Whether he was discussing politics, philosophy, science, or just making conversation; he would always do so with a beautiful passion that was intense, yet calm. Whatever life threw at him, he was jolly and jovial, not allowing the small things to bring him down. He was also a man of many passions and his greatest love, besides his family, was his love for the water. He enjoyed waterskiing, cruises, swimming, and scuba diving, and he instilled this love in his children and grandchildren. Many of my early memories include spending time with my grandfather on Lake Murray, South Carolina. Like many of my relatives, I also enjoyed swimming and watersports. However, it was not until later that I would find my greatest passion. When I was seventeen I remember my grandfather speaking with my cousin, Jade and I. He had told us about his experiences while diving in Bonaire and asked if either of us were interested in learning. He didn’t have to ask me twice. My cousin and I were quickly enrolled in an open water course and gained our scuba certifications. While we really enjoyed the experience we did not find time to use our certifications in South Carolina, as there is not a lot to see in the murky waters.
A few years after I had been certified, I was informed of a liveaboard dive trip. It sounded like a dream vacation but I was not sure if I should go. My grandfather was no longer diving at the time and had given me all of his diving gear. He encouraged me to go on the trip, which allowed me to experience my first ocean dives in the Caribbean. After that day I was hooked. My early twenties were spent gaining more diving certifications along with scuba diving Florida’s coast during vacations.
Through a series of fortunate events, I eventually was able to attend the University of Miami, where I was blessed with the chance to study scientific diving, take a trip to Bonaire, and eventually gained an internship at the Coral Restoration Foundation. I am now spending several hours or more a week diving and outplanting endangered coral species, ensuring that our reefs are around for future generations.
Without my grandfather’s encouragement to pursue this passion I am unsure if I would have discovered my deep love for scuba diving. While the world is a little less bright without Fred Clemenz, I believe the legacy he left behind and the passion that he instilled in his children and grandchildren will bring illumination to this world.