June 27, 2016

Reef Check California Celebrates the Life of Bill Golden (aka Billy Ray Golden)

Bill is all smiles after a Reef Check dive; Photo: Colleen Wisniewski

By Craig Shuman, Reef Check California Founding Director

The Reef Check Family and California ocean community are deeply saddened by the recent passing of our dear friend and colleague, Bill Golden. Bill was one of those individuals whose infectious passion for the ocean and ear to ear grin was enough to make anyone smile on their worst day. An accomplished scientific diver, it didn't take much to convince Bill to join the Reef Check California team to assist with our initial trainings. Often first in the water to lay transects and last one out after retrieving gear, Bill would jump right into assisting trainees with their data sheets and species identification while the rest of us were still trying to get warm. When not diving, Bill was often out on a boat or kayak trying to catch the big one or spending time in the desert or mountains.

Bill jumps in for another dive; Photo: Derek Smith

Bill was instrumental in the successful development of the Reef Check California program. Not only did he provide valuable diving and scientific support in the field, he also was responsible for developing, building and maintaining our early data systems. Working under contract in our first year of operation, Bill developed a state-of-the-art data entry procedure and database. He then continued to work as data manager for a number of years to enter and archive all the data that was coming in from our survey teams across the state.

One of the greatest things about Reef Check is that it brings together like-minded individuals who are passionate and committed to the ocean. We all benefit and grow from the relationships we develop spending time together with incredible individuals out on the ocean, but we also suffer greatly when one of our own is prematurely taken from us. Bill will be greatly missed, but his memory will serve as inspiration to all who were fortunate to have crossed his path.

“Bill really introduced me to the northern Channel Islands and we spent many days at sea completing survey dives at beautiful sites around the islands. Bill was always ready for any challenge, from camping on the back deck of the boat in the rain, helping me shop for provisions for our trips (always selecting the best food), diving for our anchor stuck in the rocks below, getting an underwater hug by a harbor seal at Anacapa Island or grilling up a tri-tip at the end of a long day in the water. I'll always be reminded of Bill on all my Channel Islands dives and will be smiling through my scuba regulator at the thought of it.”
– Colleen Wisniewski, Regional Manager for Reef Check California

Dirk, Dana, Colleen and Bill aboard the CA DFW boat at Santa Cruz Island Colleen, Bill and Meghan at Santa Cruz Island during a Reef Check training Bill enjoys another beautiful sunset after a long day of Reef Checking at Santa Cruz Island 2008
Billy Ray Golden at Catalina Island; Second training in July 2006 at the Channel Islands (John Manos, Bill, Grant Graves, Ted Sharshan, Eric Wilkens)
Top photos: Colleen Wisniewski    
Bottom photos: Craig Shuman