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Stories

A Reminiscence of Paul Tzimoulis
by Carl Roessler 

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When Geri Tzimoulis and Leslie Leaney of the Historical Diving Society asked me to write an appreciation of Paul Tzimoulis, my friend of forty-seven years, it was a daunting prospect.

All one had to do was read the numerous accolades to Paul’s many accomplishments, written by other divers whose lives he had changed. How could possibly add anything to them?

Then I realized that there was a way I could bring a very personal dimension to the public record. Over those many years there were key moments when Paul had completely changed the direction of my life. I realize today, after the long twilight of his illness that there must be dozens, or even hundreds, of others whose lives and careers he had changed for the better as well.

As a memorial to Paul and a service to his magnificent spirit, I could illustrate how he had influenced one life, and the dive industry he helped to be born. I could thus show for readers the enormous impact that his long and distinguished career had on just about everything to do with the recreational diving industry during the last half of the Twentieth Century.

Since I spent my diving career in international dive travel,that was where I experienced Paul’s impact the most. However, it was easy to see that his influence was equally powerful in other sectors such as equipment development, diver certification, medical research and underwater photography.

As a New Yorker, Paul started diving a long way from the exotic destinations he was to make famous in later years. He began free diving in 1951, chasing fish around the lakes of Connecticut. By 1956 he had progressed to an Aqua-Lung and gotten a serious bite from the new scuba bug. This infection prompted him to open a scuba diving school in New Haven in 1957, and this is where I first met Paul.

I had been a snorkeler and spearfisherman since 1950, but wanted to explore the underwater world with the newly-available scuba-diving equipment. I signed up for a YMCA scuba certification course, and my instructor was the young Paul Tzimoulis.

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Even then he displayed some of the personal skills that he would later use to mold not only divers but the industry that served them. He was an excellent instructor. Both knowledgeable and patient with students of varied aptitudes. I soon graduated Paul’s course and joined his local club, the New Haven Barnacles. I would see him at club ‘meetings,’ which were long on eating and drinking and short on diving. Paul certainly livened up those Barnacle meetings with accounts of his travels and diving. We all asked whether we could carry his bags, a compliment I received myself in later years. Paul appreciated the good fortune he had in giving birth to diving as a potential mass-market sport, and he put into it all the energy and intelligence he possessed.

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