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Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Remembering Dody Carlisle
by Liz Waters 

Remembering Dody Carlisle

Photos courtesy of Ken Carlisle, Dody’s husband

Every water aerobics program in Louisville, Kentucky owes a debt of gratitude to the memory of Mary Joanne “Dody” Carlisle, who died on February 23, 2017 after a valiant battle with cancer. When her family of seven children had grown up, Dody realized that the water fitness class she attended would be fun to teach. She became an instructor, traveled to workshops, studied the craft, and achieved certification and training through AEA, Arthritis Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis Society, and HYDRO-FIT®. As she gained in knowledge, her repertoire expanded and her class schedule grew.

Before long, this elfin figure with a sunny smile and wicked sense of humor was on the pool deck at many pools, public and private, in the Louisville area. From aerobic level workouts and MS-specific classes in the cool water of lap pools, to arthritis classes and meditative tai chi in the warm water of therapy pools, Dody taught every form of aqua fitness classes, including classes for the physically challenged.

Teaching up to 200 people a week, Dody found inspiration and fun in her students, often saying that she learned as much from her classes as they learned from her. In fact, Dody met her husband, Ken, in the pool. Recovering from a heart attack, Ken was advised to take a water aerobics class after rehab. Dody was the instructor of that class. Their love of golf brought them even closer, and soon they married. In 2011, Dody shared stories from her classes in her boo From the Pool’s Edge. Dody’s spirit lives on in its pages; for even when faced with personal tragedies, Dody kept a smile on her face and was always ready with an uplifting word for everyone she met.

Mary Duke Connell, Aquatics Director at the award-winning Baptist East Milestone Wellness Center, reminisced about her relationship with Dody, “She was the first aquatics instructor I hired and she helped develop our diverse program, setting a tone of excellence that we strive for daily.”  Dody’s willingness to share her expertise and to encourage new instructors made it possible for many of the classes she introduced to continue to be offered at this facility. It is hard to find an aquatics instructor in the Louisville area who did not get a boost of confidence from Dody Carlisle when getting started.

Dody’s dedication to water aerobics was legendary. Swim coach J.C. Barnett, a long-time member of Louisville’s aquatic community, spoke of Dody’s dedication, “It could be a cloudy, cold, rainy day and only one person showed up at the pool for class, and Dody would carry on with a smile regardless.”  In Louisville and wherever people gather to workout in the pool, Dody Carlisle’s life will continue to inspire instructors in aqua fitness. And, beyond the pool deck, her joyful spirit will be remembered by those of us fortunate enough to have known her.


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