Seizing the Day
If you look up the Guinness World Record for the world’s oldest male scuba diver, you’ll see a photo of a 96-year-old gentleman. But at age 99, Rockford resident Bill Lambert has paperwork pending to claim that title as his own.
“I’m living now at a senior living home, and we were invited to go diving,” Lambert recalls. “I went, and decided I wanted to go on with it.”
Lambert became an SDI-certified open water scuba diver at age 98 after completing eight classes in the 13-foot deep pool at Loves Park Scuba. His final session was a dive at Pearl Lake, in South Beloit, Ill., where he saw a plethora of surprises underwater, including a school bus, an airplane and a submarine.
Recently, he took a trip to Cozumel, Mexico, to enjoy a few days of particularly scenic scuba diving.
“It’s really fun! I enjoy it,” Lambert says. “It’s a challenge, particularly at my age. Young kids come in here and it takes them only half the time it took me to learn. But I passed everything, and now I’m certified.”
Lambert tries to practice his hobby twice a week. Born on Sept. 5, 1920, he even celebrated his 99th birthday with a dive at Pearl Lake. “I’m tired when it’s over, but I feel better,” he says. “I’m working to try to get my time so I can stay down there longer. I’m at an hour and five minutes – trying to get past it.”
Lambert grew up in Chicago and moved to Rockford in 1966 for a job at Rockford Products, a manufacturer of industrial items. Before that, he worked in a steel mill and served in the Marine Corps from 1943-1945. “I’m lucky I never had to do any fighting – I just got sent all over the South,” Lambert says.
After nine years at Rockford Products, he spent the rest of his working days at The National Lock Company, which manufactured various forms of hardware.
Lambert’s daughter and son-in-law, both scuba divers themselves, were present when Lambert became SDI-certified. His two granddaughters witnessed the accomplishment as well.“They just snorkel… for now,” Lambert laughs.
His advice to every one of all ages?
“Don’t be afraid to take on a challenge,” he says. “If I’m lucky, I’ll be scuba diving at age 100.”