Teaching Safety Around Water for 23 Years

My Y Story: Jerry Carney


YMCA Swim Instructor and Lifeguard Jerry Carney is happiest when he’s in the swimming pool. He’s been a fixture at the YMCA of Greater Nashua for the past 23 years, teaching thousands of kids and adults to swim, where he is retiring from his full-time Aquatics Supervisor role this month.

His affinity for swimming began at age 5. Jerry suffered a severe leg injury at that age and after surgery, his orthopedist recommended he get right to the Old Colony YMCA in Brockton, Mass., in the town he grew up. “I took to the water like a duck! I took swim lessons, swam on the swim team from age 8 to 18 at the Old Colony Y. It did take me a couple of sessions to pass my beginning swimming lessons there, but I loved it. I worked my first lifeguarding job at the Old Colony Y, as a junior in high school in 1966, ” Jerry said.

“I’ve stuck with the Y for a long time. I always wanted to be in a YMCA setting, because of my medical situation as a kid. They helped me out so much. I don’t think I would be walking normally without my Y time after I broke my leg. When the doctor put a cast on, he didn’t allow for growth. My muscles burst and I had to go back for a muscle graft. I was in a cast for almost a year. When I got to the Y, I was in the gym and the pool all the time. There was always all kinds of great activities going on. The Y had an awesome youth division,” he said.

“As a kid I was part of the Aquatic Leaders Club in Brockton. We were a group of 10 kids who helped out in the pool and taught lessons on a volunteer basis. There’s a plaque someplace in the Y with the Aquatics Leaders Club kids’ names. I would love to find it!”

His love of swimming led him to UMASS Amherst, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, with a specialty in Aquatics in 1976. He’s also certified as a Naval Underwater Swimmer from the United States Naval Underwater Swimmers School in Key West, Florida. Students in this program came from all branches of the U.S. military, from several civilian government departments, and from allied forces. (The program ran 1954 until 1973.) Jerry was chosen to participate during his Coast Guard service.

Jerry is looking forward to more time playing golf and trout fishing.  This summer Jerry also has plans to travel with his wife of 33 years, Julia. On the docket for them is a trip to Washington, DC, and Thailand in the Spring. Jerry served in the Vietnam War and one of his Coast Guard assignments was in Thailand. He wants to go back to tour the country with his wife and show her some of the places he spent time there in 1968 and 1969. Jerry and Julia have lived in Nashua for 30 years and have a daughter Meaghan Colleen. They also have a medical research laboratory rescue beagle named Roisin (Gaelic for Little Rose), who they call “Nosey Rosey!”

Swim LessonsJerry boasts that he’s part of a Y family. His father-in-law was Director at the Syracuse (NY) YMCA Athletic Club. “I married into the Y as they say. The Price family (his wife’s family) has a family reunion every four years at Silver Bay YMCA (on Lake George, NY). There are about 40 of us and it’s a great time,” he said. He also added he still has his USO YMCA card from 1968 when he joined the service in 1968. He was stationed at Point Allerton in Hull, Mass., in the Coast Guard.

Jerry is eager to volunteer this summer. “I’m going back to my old swimming pool that I managed for 7 years for the city of Brockton (the Lawrence R. Cosgrove Memorial Pool). The city, in collaboration with the Old Colony Y, is offering swimming lessons in the Brockton housing projects’ swimming pools for kids for six weeks this summer. I want to give back and help,” he said.

When Jerry thinks of highlights of his Y career, he said, “I like working with the members, and specifically the kids. I love teaching the kids. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it comes with the job. I like it when these kids finally do something that they’ve never done. I love that look on their face when they think: I did it! I’m moving up. I’ve done something great. I love giving a kid a completion certificate saying that they are promoted to the next swim level,” he shared. Jerry even taught Merrimack Y’s Aquatics Director Allie Thomas to swim when she was 4-years-old at the Prospect Street YMCA and is training new lifeguard and swim instructor Preston Dyess, also a former student of Jerry’s. “I’ve lost count of the number of parents who have come up to me to say ‘you taught my kids to swim.’ I’ve instilled the joy of swimming in many kids.”

Jerry and AllieHis supervisor, Allie Thomas said, “Jerry has been a lifelong friend, companion, and mentor; from teaching me how to swim at the age of 4-years-old, to now keeping me on my toes as his supervisor, Jerry has always found a way to make everyone smile from the moment they walk through the pool doors. I always ask myself, if it weren’t for Jerry teaching me how to love the sport of swimming at such a young age, how would my life be different? I have been around pools and the sport of swimming since I was 6-months-old, and I give a lot of that credit to Jerry himself, as he instilled his love and passion of aquatics, and the YMCA, into me. I know I can speak for a lot of people; we are surely going to miss seeing Mr. Jerry, on our pool deck and in our pools, every day. Congratulations on your retirement Jere-Bear, it is well earned and deserved!”

The Y thanks you for your decades of service to the Y, Jerry! He ended our interview with, “I’m sure I’m going to get bored. I’m addicted to the swimming pool. I want to help out. I may be back to teach part-time!”




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