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:: Mary Edith "Mel" Lillis - Sports / Education - 1963
Distinguished Service - 1994

Mary Edith Lillis   "Mel" Lillis, a Kansas City native and resident, was a pioneer in spear fishing and skin diving. She started the Kansas City Citizen Club and became a competitive spearfisher in tbe early days of the sport. Lillis also started the Underwater Hunter Safety Corps and began working on area scheduling SCUBA events. She formed the Midwest Diving Council made up of clubs from Missouri and Oklahoma and represented the newly formed Midwest Council at the official formation of the Underwater Society of America in Chicago. In 1960, Lillis went to a special meeting of the Society in New Orleans on Free Diving Rules and requested that Competitive Skin Diving-SCUBA Division be added to the Underwater Society and that they create a position of Vice President in charge of SCUBA Competitions. From 1961 to 1970, Lillis served the Underwater Society as Inter-Council Coordinator; Secretary; Chief Archivist; Historian; and she represented the Diving Council and the Oklahoma Council of Divers. She held office in both organizations as Secretary, Vice President; as well offices in two local diving clubs.
In 1961, the team of Lillis and June Poplar won the first International SCUBA Triathlon competitions in New Orleans. Local, state, and regional competitions continued and Lillis remained the top national competitor for the next five years, retiring from competitive diving in California.

In 1963, in Philadelphia, Lillis became the first woman recipient of the NOGI and until 1983, she was the only woman to be honored in the Sports and Education category. Soon after becoming a NOGI Fellow, Lillis was elected Executive Secretary and she served in that office for the past forty years. In 2005, the title of "Executive Secretary" was changed to "NOGI Awards Director," and as such, Mel continues to oversea the NOGI Elections.

In addition to the NOGI Awards, for over 40 years, Lillis has been an active member of the Boston Sea Rovers, the oldest Scuba Diving Club in America, and still helps coordinate their annual show. Apart from her myriad diving activities, Mel Lillis currently works for the Kansas City Missouri-Mexico Business Development Office.

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