Rockford resident celebrates 99th birthday with record-setting dive at…

SOUTH BELOIT — For most, turning 99 years old is an accomplishment in itself.

And then there are the likes of Rockford resident Bill Lambert who celebrated the milestone by attempting to become the oldest male scuba diver in the world.

Pending certification, Lambert accomplished the feat Thursday at Pearl Lake by staying 32 feet underwater for 20 minutes.

“I feel good,” he said upon emerging from the chilly waters of the 35-acre lake with a smile on his face.

Lambert, who was born Sept. 5, 1920, made the dive in the company of several other divers including friend, Dan Johnson, owner of Loves Park Scuba. Johnson, who was underwater with Lambert, recorded the event and will submit footage of the record-setting attempt to Guinness World Records.

Lambert didn’t start scuba diving until last fall.

“I was invited over to Loves Park Scuba just to play around,” Lambert said. “It’s not far from Bickford (of Rockford), where I live. Dan found out my age and asked me if I wanted to go down to the bottom of the pool for a little bit, and I said, ‘Sure. Why not?’ He took me under his wing and taught me everything I needed to know, and I liked it.”

Lambert started scuba diving classes and training in the fall. He then went on Loves Park Scuba’s annual dive trip in February to Cozumel, Mexico, where he completed his evaluation and became certified as an open water diver.

“I went 42 feet in Mexico,” he said.

Lambert said the certification process entailed a couple of challenges.

“You’ve got to take your jacket off at the surface and do it again underwater. I’m not as limber as I used to be.” 

Lambert explained the exercise is for practical purposes.

“If you get caught on something underwater, you’ve got to be able to take it off and once you get loose, you have to be able to put it back on. Or if you are running out of air and you have to wait for a boat to pick you up while you are out in the ocean, well when you get to the surface you can put the tank underneath you and the tank will hold you up for a long time.”

Lambert, who stays fit by riding a stationary bike for 30 minutes a day six days a week and scuba diving once or twice a week, is still waiting for Guinness World Record to approve his dive in Mexico for the oldest male scuba diver at the age of 98.

Guinness currently lists Wallace Raymond Woolley as the oldest male scuba diver. He completed a dive at Zenobia shipwreck, Larnaca Bay, Cyprus, on Sept. 1, 2018, at the age of 95 years and 4 days. Woolley broke his own record, which was previously achieved on his 94th birthday.

“There’s another guy in another foreign country, I believe in the UK, who claims he beat the world record at age 96 two weeks ago,” Johnson said. “We’ve already got the 98, and now we’ve got the 99. So I sent him a nice text message.” 

Chris Green: 815-987-1241;; @chrisfgreen

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