HOLMES BEACH — When you are used to always being active, there is no reason to slow down just because you retire.
That is how Thomas Story, 82, felt when he moved to Manatee County in 1990 after a career in construction in New York.
So Story started searching for things to do.
His five sons were heavily involved in ice hockey while they were growing up, so he found an ice rink in south Sarasota County and began skating on a regular basis.
When that rink closed, Story had to travel to Clearwater, until the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex opened. He now skates there weekly.
But Story needed something else to keep him busy, and when he read about Mote Marine Laboratory looking for volunteers, he checked it out.
This month Story begins his 12th year at the Sarasota research institution, taking care of the sea turtle hatchings or feeding pieces of squid to the larger sea turtles rehabilitating after being rescued.
“Mote is wonderful,” he says. “You’re doing things people just can’t imagine.”
Volunteering at Mote and ice skating are not the only activities filling Story’s weeks.
He also participates in Ceili Irish dancing at the Anna Maria Island Community Center and was an active clogger until this spring when the classes were suspended.
These physical activities keep him going.
“I feel you have to keep your legs moving,” Story says.
The World War II veteran joined the Steamfitters Union after the war and worked in the construction field until he retired to open a small business.
He raised a family of five boys and two girls on Long Island, where he was raised.
After visiting Florida for five years as a snowbird, Story made a permanent move to Manatee County.
When Story started volunteering at Mote in 1998, he was assigned to take care of the sharks in the cancer research area.
He soon mastered that job and requested more duties.
“I don’t just want to sit around,” Story says again.
Lisa Kinsella, Mote’s director of volunteer and intern resources, praised Story’s work with the sea turtles in the public aquarium.
“The one thing is, we can count on Tom,” Kinsella said. “He’s reliable and attentive.”
The staff and other volunteers, as well as aquarium visitors, appreciate Story’s willingness to help out or answer questions.
“He’s devoted so much time to Mote,” Kinsella said.
Story was recognized last year with a citation from President George W. Bush for his 4,000 hours of volunteering. “When I got that citation, I felt it was all worth it,” he says.
Story, says Kinsella, is a model for anyone else who wants to volunteer.
Mote has four openings for volunteers at this time: for cashier, admissions desk attendee, greeter or gift shop clerk.
And from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 15, there will be Volunteer Recruitment Coffee at Mote, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, for potential volunteers to learn about the facility.
For more information or to register, call Kinsella at 388-4441, ext. 438.