Today would have been Jerry Garcia’s 70th birthday.This marks the beginning of what Deadheads call “the Days Between” as he diedon Aug. 8th. It is a week of celebrations and remembrances. I was diving the morning of the tragedy and had just gotten back to my boat for a fast change on off to work. I hit the blinking message machine and turned on the local FM station. Both my messages and the radio told me the sad news,Jerry was gone.

People magazine, in a rare case of journalistic excellence, did a whole issue on him. It was perfect. The following was part of that issue. I particularly like the part about the whole band diving together,so will you.

Years later I was diving in Kona, of course I went to Jack’s Dive Shop. I also dove with an all-female dive company. As we were gearing up I asked the dive guide if she was around when Jerry dove there,after a short silence she quietly said she had been his constant dive buddy. I was in awe.

My constant companion, the Jerry doll, sits in thepilot house with me; we talk on those late night watches.

So I hope you take in the spirit of this sacred week,share some music with your friends and SMILE SMILE SMILE

Jerry and the Deep Blue Sea

Update Friday September 01, 199501:00 AM EDT Originally posted Friday September 01, 1995 01:00 AM EDT

That’s what I do when the GratefulDead aren’t working,” Jerry Garcia once said. “I’m in Hawaii, diving.”

How true it was. After getting his PADI (Professional Association of DivingInstructors) certification as a scuba diver in 1988, Garcia submerged himselfin the sport, making more than 500 dives during the next seven years, mostlyalong the Kona coast off the Big Island of Hawaii. His friends Jeff and TeriLeicher, who own Jack’s Diving Locker in Kona, recall that it was hard to keephim from investigating any and all sea creatures, great and small. “He’dgo up to strange eels and poke them with his fingers,” says Jeff, 41.”I’d say, ‘I wouldn’t do that, Jerry.’ ” Adds Teri: “I’d say,’Jerry, you’re already missing one finger, you’re gonna end up missinganother.’ And Jerry said, ‘I never play with eels with a finger that I can’tafford to lose. I always use my picking hand, not my fretting hand.’ ”

After his 1986 coma, Garcia began looking for a way to get exercise that hewould enjoy. Vicki Jensen, 42, a diving instructor and longtime friend ofGarcia’s, introduced him to scuba and to the Leichers. After that, it seemed,he headed for Kona at every opportunity. “We tried not to talk to thepress, and we didn’t want people to know he was coming,” says Jeff.”It was a getaway thing for Jerry.” Garcia told Teri that next to hismusic diving made him happiest: “He could totally relax and have totalfreedom.”

He became quite proficient. Nervous on his first dive in the summer of 1988, hesurfaced after 28 minutes. Later, as he became more at ease underwater, he seta Jack’s Diving Locker record of 109 minutes on one tank of air. “He wascompletely relaxed,” says Jeff. “He quickly adapted to the underwaterworld and became part of it.” He also became involved in protecting it.When the Leichers began campaigning to protect local reefs from damage—mostly fromthe dragging anchors and chains of dive boats—Garcia and the Dead donated$10,000 to the cause, and he later testified before Hawaii’s State Land UseCommission. The campaign was a success—46 special mooring buoys have beeninstalled, some by Garcia himself—and the program is being copied on otherparts of the Big Island.

Mostly, Jensen and the Leichers recall Garcia as a welcome friend who loveddiving and just hanging around the shop. “He was one of the bestconversationalists ever,” says Teri. “He must have read a lot,because he knew about everything.” And even if he didn’t, he had ananswer. One year, when he joined the couple for Thanksgiving dinner, Teri’smother asked him if he knew the difference between a cornet fish and a trumpetfish. “Well,” Garcia replied, “you have to blow on a trumpetfish a lot harder.”

Once Garcia brought five friends along, and Jeff took the group on a nightdive. “I was concerned about keeping all six of them together,” saysJeff, “but they followed me in perfect formation. I said, ‘That’s amazing.I’ve never taken six before, and you guys stayed together.’ They said, ‘We’vebeen together for 23 years. It’s no problem.’ ” Leicher hadn’t recognizedthe Grateful Dead.

When Garcia visited Hawaii, the couple says, they saw no evidence that he had adrug problem. “The Jerry we knew,” says Teri, “didn’t use drugswhen he was here.” Adds Jensen: “The diving was instead of the drugs,I think.” Jensen says she worried when a few months would go by withoutGarcia’s coming to Kona. “I’d think he was probably working too hard andmaybe sliding back a bit,” she says. “I do think that if he had givenmore time to himself, maybe come here more often, he would have livedlonger.”