Bowling Green resident and swim coach Bill Powell is a legend in our community.

A native of St. Joseph, Mich., Powell learned to swim as an 8-year-old when his family bought a house on an island only accessible by boat. He moved to Bowling Green and became WKU’s swim coach in 1969 and amassed 425 wins, a mark that at the time of his retirement was the second-highest win total in NCAA Division I men’s swimming.

This was quite an accomplishment for Powell and WKU. Even before Powell retired from WKU in 2005, he was a fixture at Bowling Green Country Club, giving swim lessons to children – many are now adults who send their own kids to Powell for their swim lessons. To this day, he remains a fixture at BGCC, giving kids lessons and talking to members he once taught, catching up on their lives and telling them about his and his family’s lives.

Powell, 82, is an approachable man who always has time to talk and offer advice on how old children should be before they can start taking lessons from him, or just a simple question about life.

Powell also has a rather neat, decades-long tradition that we think is really cool. On every April 13 for the past 35 years, Powell swims on his birthday the number of laps of his age. On Saturday, Powell changed the tradition of swimming in the pool that bears his name at WKU, instead opting to swim at the Warren County Aquatic Center to help RACE Aquatics.

Powell started his birthday tradition at 8 a.m. and finished about 45 minutes later. RACE Aquatics opened its Sprint-A-Thon meet shortly after, and young participants were to pay $82 for their entry fee to honor Powell’s age. The money used for entries will help fund equipment and go toward needed improvements at the pool.

Powell now helps RACE Aquatics part time as an assistant coach. RACE Aquatics coach Neil Romney said Powell didn’t hesitate when he proposed the idea of using his swimming tradition as a fundraiser.

These are the actions of a very selfless man who continues to dedicate a large part of his time and energy to helping others, which is very telling of Powell’s character. It’s pretty neat how Powell took a tradition like this and turned it into a fundraiser.

We applaud Powell for all that he has done during his life here by being a stellar WKU swim coach, a mentor for helping young people learn how to swim and for just being a friend to all.

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