Jackie W Smith departed this world on Jan. 1 2006. He and I have been diving together since 1996 when we met on a boat doing a deep dive. There were several other divers on that trip that continued to dive together after that day. The other divers faded away but Jackie and I remained committed to diving. Jackie never looked for excuses to miss a dive. The depth didn't matter to him, shallow or deep if he was available he went.
He and I had different beliefs when it came to gear, but you would be hard pressed to find two divers that would agree on "everything". Divers that strive to reach new goals and push the envelope. Can and often do disagree on many kinds of gear and issues with diving. This had no effect on our friendship because we respected each other. Respect is something one earns when it comes to technical diving and he proved it to me. He repeatedly ventured to great depths and often volunteered to do things like secure the mooring lines, tie in, untie, and never had problems that he couldn't handle or he just seem to always do the right thing under extreme stress. Cold, deep, and dark are things that test most divers. Throw in low vis and that is where Jackie excelled.
I'll always remember the first time I called his home and got the recording......"You have reached the home of the nurse and the super excessive compulsive scuba diver."........I remember thinking,"Now here is a guy I could relate to".
Jackie trusted me and I trusted him. We dived some historical wrecks together. Sometimes as buddies and other times not. He was the "King" of Lake Jocassee, diving to depths near 350ft there, running lines and exploring lost history. www.jocasseeremembered.com
He was there when Charlie Mcgurr was lost, Becky hurt, counsel to me when Tai Wilkerson passed on a dive, and when I was seriously hurt. He had seen countless near misses and experienced the hazards of diving. He knew the deal and the risk, yet unlike those that do it a few times or for a short period just so they can say they did it, Jackie mastered it.
Jackie was a realist when it came to diving. When talking about all that he had see and heard of regarding diving deaths, he often said it didn't matter if it was three hundred feet or thirty feet. I now catch myself reliving many of the dives that we have done together in my mind. The times we had to solve a problem during a dive, whether we solved the problem correct or not our lives lay in the balance.
Many divers on the internet NG list will dissect all information that can be obtain be it fact or rumor. Often information gets twisted and posters confused as they bungle the scenario. Those with little or no experience with diving accidents will through out possibilities. Much like a first sexual encounter it is an awkward struggle as they try to get it right. Being drawn into many of these debates myself I've come to believe that the facts are something many will not accept. So I no longer engage in these debates. What are the facts, sometimes it's as plain as not enough experience. Other times you are left with no answers, this may be one of those times.
I'm sure that Jackie will have no problem with all the facts coming out once they are all known and his affairs settled. At the proper time I will release all of them and if you think there is something there to help everyone dive safe I'm sure he would be comfortable that it is out there.
I have been asked "what happen, what was the cause of death". For me, my answer remains the same, "it doesn't matter". I lost a friend and will miss him. We all will experience death but until then we must live life to it's fullest. I know he did.
The last time I spoke to Jackie was just days before his death, we talked about the upcoming year, planned some dives in Hatteras, and talked about our dive buddies. If we were women you might call it gossip, but since we are men we just say "I'm letting him know". He asked me when I was going to finish the book. I confessed, I had stopped writing it. I told him it had reached a point that if I wrote the truth some would not be happy, he told me to write it anyway. Maybe I will, time will tell. Had I known that would be the last time I spoke to him I would have said much more. Another reason to treat every day as your last.
The photos below are from the memorial service for Jackie. Many old friends who I have not seen in years were present and I left with many new friends. For those who were not present I hope these photos help ease the pain of having been unable to attend.
|Tom and Lisa share in the loss of Jackie.|
|Jackie had a huge circle of friends he had met diving, I was able to get some of them in a group shot. I would think that if you know any of these guys then you knew Jackie or have heard of him.|
|Many photos of Jackie's life was displayed.|
|Many were of his dives and with his friends.|
|Photos of Lisa and his wedding. I had never seen Jackie with long hair.|
|The window he and Charlie had recovered from the lodge in Lake Jocassee.|
|Jackie and his friend Joel. They had been diving together longer than any of us. When I first saw Joel I asked if they were brothers. With a grin Jackie said "no", but deep down I think they were.|
|I find it hard to believe he is gone. But I'll see him again. Just not in this world.|
|Debbie with the slate to "sign in" at the lodge.|
|Jackie was a BIG Three Stooges fan and this cake was in honor of him. Something he would have really liked.|
|Rick, Judd, and Adam at Jackie's home.|