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published on 08/01/2008

Tennessee Aquarium Diver Celebrates His 82nd Birthday with a Splash

Communications Manager Tennessee Aquarium & IMAX Theater

Irby and Sara Hartley
When Irby Hartley is asked about his age, many people are surprised to learn he is in his eighties. He looks two or three decades younger. “I guess I inherited some good genes from my mother and I have always participated in all kinds of sports all of my life,” said Hartley.

The sport Irby enjoys most these days is scuba diving. The octogenarian relishes close encounters with octopi, sharks and eels while logging over 200 open water dives in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of California. Since 1993, Hartley has been diving at least once each month as a volunteer at the Tennessee Aquarium to remain in tune for dive trips and stay fit. Swimming with sharks in the Aquarium’s Secret Reef Exhibit is one way he remains younger than his years. “I encourage everyone to volunteer somewhere to keep your brain and muscles working,” Hartley said.

Seven years ago Irby convinced his wife Sara to become a volunteer docent at the Aquarium. “She didn’t want to volunteer at first, but now she loves it. And we have made some great friends at the Aquarium,” said Hartley. Sara enjoys the unique opportunity to greet people from all over the world at the Aquarium and share information with them. “Sara talks to people as if she’s their best friend in the world,” Irby said with a smile. “That’s what we are looking for,” said Julie Piper, the Aquarium’s volunteer coordinator. “Friendly people like Irby and Sara Hartley who enhance our visitor’s experience by sharing information about our animals and exhibits with a dose of Chattanooga hospitality.”

Right now the Tennessee Aquarium is looking for more people like the Hartleys to become volunteer docents. No experience is necessary and the Aquarium provides all of the training. “We ask our docent volunteers to participate twice a month for a four and one half hour shift. We can accommodate virtually anyone’s schedule with available shifts, but we would really like to have people volunteer for Friday, Saturday and Sunday shifts,” Piper said.

Irby Hartley says he has discovered another benefit to volunteering – the youthful effects of helping others. “I like staying active because it makes me feel good and it’s a great way to give back a part of what I have gotten out of life.”

(Irby will celebrate his 82nd birthday with a special dive in the Secret Reef on Monday, August 4th beginning at 9:00 am. Birthday cake will be served when he surfaces about 45 minutes later.)

While there is a waiting list for volunteer divers, docent training classes begin at the Tennessee Aquarium September 23, 2008. For more information call the volunteer office at .

Aquarium volunteers enjoy the following perks:
- Volunteer uniform
- Free parking
- Limited number of free Aquarium and IMAX passes
- Gift shop discounts
- Social activities

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