By Pam Whitney
Tim Whitney, Grand Canyon river guide--that was the way he always defined himself. He loved the river and he loved the river community. He grew up on the Connecticut River, made his first trip west with his brothers, stopped at the South Rim and saw Emery Kolb narrate his movie, missed the turn off to Lees Ferry but found it years later when he became a boatman for Fort Lee Company. As he said, “The river…I was completely taken…the canyon, too, but there was just something about..the river in the canyon that captured me completely.” Water was Tim’s medium. He spent time in the Sea of Cortez guiding and diving, running river trips for Sobek in New Guinea and Ethiopia, diving in the springs of Florida as well as all over the world, but Grand Canyon was his home. As he said about being a Grand Canyon guide, “If you didn’t ever have to quit, why would you?” A mantra shared by most of the river community.
From the moment he got involved in Grand Canyon River Guides, his focus was to better the lives of all guides. After GCRG, it was a natural transition for him to then get involved with The Whale Foundation, an organization all about helping river guides. His time with the foundation gave him a vehicle to help realize his vision for bettering the lives of river guides. He worked hard to find some way to make health insurance an affordable option for guides. At that time, nothing was available. Undaunted, he was able to work on organizing the annual Health Fair at the yearly spring GTS, a step towards providing guides with affordable health care screenings.
As Lew Steiger said in the BQR about the donation which started the TWWI, “This Whale Foundation grant, which in some ways says as much about the character of Tim’s anonymous donor as it does about Tim, nonetheless reflects the passion and intent Tim brought to the Whale Foundation. Tim was a classic example of somebody who managed to reap all the benefits of the guiding life in Grand Canyon and elsewhere, but who also had his act together enough not to really need the services offered personally. He always had a fall back plan and he really could just boat for the love of it. But he also had a lot of love and respect for the Grand Canyon guiding community as a whole, along with a clear-eyed view of what the job asks of you, what it will take from if you let it and exactly what you’ll get back from it in the end if you’re not careful. “
He lived his life honorably, fully and compassionately and I know he is both honored and humbled by having his name attached to this program. He was always about taking care of others as reflected by this part of his meditation prayer:
“May I be a protector for those without protection, a leader for those who journey, and a boat, a bridge, a passage for those desiring the further shore…” -Shantideva