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Joe Bodner was born on July 24, 1931 in New Haven, Connecticut. His life partner and wife, Jean, entered the world and New Haven just a few years earlier, on March 18, 1929. Both graduates of New Haven High School, they didn’t meet until college, at one of Joe’s fencing demonstrations at the Branford Community House while he was attending Yale.
After graduating from Yale in 1953, Joe joined the Naval Reserve in 1954 while attending the University of Pennsylvania Dental School. He graduated in 1957, but continued to serve
in the dental corps of the Navy until his retirement as a captain in 1978. Joe and Jean married in 1958 and made Branford, Connecticut their lifelong home.
Joe spent 21 years in the Navy. During this time, Jean served as a swim instructor for the Red Cross. She was introduced to the world of diving in 1957 by a Navy Seabee and Frogman. She was passionate about the underwater world and it was her enthusiasm that moved Joe to get involved. Jean gave Joe a dry suit and a mask and after his first dive, he was hooked. The seed was planted and in time would give root to a lifelong shared passion for diving.
The dive community was still in its infancy, however, and the only existing certifying agencies at the time were L.A. County and the YMCA. So, Jean taught her husband how to dive. In 1958, Jean became one of the first female sport skin and scuba diving instructors in the country, teaching at Quonset
Jean Bodner Certifying NAUI
Point Naval Air Station(RI), the US Naval Air Station(Newfoundland), the US Naval Academy (Annapolis), and the US Submarine Base in New London. In addition to that work, Jean also worked as a Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety Instructor, as well as Instructor Trainer.
About this time, Neal Hess was developing a new scuba diving certifying agency that would later be known worldwide as NAUI. So when Neal was creating Naui, Jean developed a dive course manual and sent it to him while he was still on the west coast. Neal later returned to the east coast to attend
Joe Bodner certifying
Harvard. By the time Hess was ready to put NAUI into operation, Jean had successfully completed the course requirements and procedures for the agency. These were later incorporated into the NAUI Training Manual.
Despite Jean spearheading the couple’s foray into the world of diving, it was Joe that was first officially certified as a Naui Dive Instructor. In August of 1960, he attended the first Naui Instructor Course in Houston, Texas. Jean and Joe were living in Newfoundland at the time and raising their family. As only one of them could attend the course, Jean stayed home with their three year old son. Joe earned top scores for the course and for his efforts, received instructor card number 9 in NAUI.
1961 Newfoundland scuba
When she had the opportunity a couple of years later, Jean went to Gloucester, Mass in 1962 and was certified as a NAUI Instructor (number 357), alongside Buster Crabbe. He was quite famous at the time for earning the gold medal in swimming in the Olympics, as well as starring in the first Tarzan movies. A
friendship soon developed between the Bodners and Crabbe, who would often visit the couple at their home in Branford. Years later, when the couple wanted
2012 Jeff with Vic and Dr Bodner
to build a pool at their new home, Crabbe designed it for them and christened it with his first swim.
At this time, Jean was only the third NAUI Instructor east of the Mississippi, and she and Joe were the first husband and wife team travelling and teaching scuba under the NAUI name.
Capt. Joe (as he was called while serving in the Navy) and Capt. George Bond travelled to UNEXSO in the Bahamas and developed and presented a physicians’ seminar, teaching hyperbaric medicine at Sea Lab, which was based at the UNEXSO location. Capt. Joe stayed with Dr. John Clement, who was the physician in charge of hyperbaric medicine at UNEXSO, and worked with Capt. Bond at Sea Lab.
During their time spent in Newfoundland, Joe served as a Navy