It is with great sadness that the BTS Board of Trustees announces the passing of JoAnn Zigahn.
Joann passed quietly on October 25th, 2021 after an untimely illness.
JoAnn had a love for the fashion industry where she had her first work experience. While working in the fashion industry, JoAnn met and married Armand “Zig” Zigahn. Zig was the founder of Beneath the Sea. Soon JoAnn realized she had married both Zig and Beneath the Sea. It was a marriage and a love affair that lasted for the next thirty-eight years.
JoAnn became a scuba diver in 1972. Later she would create fashion shows at Beneath the Sea. She then parlayed twenty years of New York teaching Hospital management experience to consolidate, coordinate, and create the family experience that would make Zig’s Beneath the Sea the family get-together for the dive industry it would become.
It was JoAnn’s caring that created family-oriented programs at Beneath the Sea such as Ocean Pals, an ocean environmental art program that featured an international poster contest for grade school children. The children’s perception of the ocean’s environment has enlightened many adults’ perceptions. JoAnn often referred to the Ocean Pals Education by Art poster contest as “what we learn from our children.”
In addition to her Ocean Pals program, JoAnn later created the Beneath the Sea Marine Careers program. This program is devoted to high schoolers and college students seeking marine careers. The Marine Careers program is an annual day-long event that brings whole classes from local schools and individual students all wanting a career in the multi-faceted marine industry. They would meet with representatives from colleges that featured marine career programs and listen to men and women enjoying successful marine careers who would be presenting to the industry throughout the Beneath the Sea weekend exposition.
JoAnn quickly noticed that a missing element in the ambitions of her young Marine Career attendees was money. Being JoAnn, she remedied this by creating a Scholarship Program that would award funds and give entry and encouragement to her Marine Career participants. Due to JoAnn’s planning and enthusiasm, these programs will continue to be a part of Beneath the Sea’s future.
JoAnn’s abilities were recognized throughout her long and star-studded career. In 2001 the Women Divers Hall of Fame invited JoAnn to become a member acknowledging her long-standing and far-reaching achievements to the dive industry through her Presidency at Beneath the Sea. In 2012 the artist known as Wyland singled JoAnn out for his Wyland Ikon Award. Later that year, JoAnn stood with Zig at the Cayman International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame to have their partnership as Founder/ Executive Director and President of Beneath the Sea honored for its many contributions to the world of scuba diving and scuba travel.
In Westchester County, JoAnn is known for her charitable contributions to the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and Westchester Medical Center. In addition to funding a hospital room in the name of Beneath the Sea, JoAnn was instrumental in supporting an aquarium in the lobby of the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, by annual Beneath the Sea contributions. The creation, nurturing, and continued support of this project were always closest to JoAnn’s heart.
The Board of Trustees would like to thank the many people in the Beneath the Sea volunteer family, the scuba industry, and so many others who, for forty-four years, came together to lift the vision JoAnn and Zig had for Beneath the Sea and make it reality We know you loved them as much as we. We know their passing leaves an empty place in your hearts as it does in ours.
On JoAnn’s behalf, we thank you for your devotion to her ideals and the best things she stood for. The funeral arrangements are available on the Westchester Funeral Home website.
The board has created a JoAnn Zigahn Sea of Tomorrow Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship is to be awarded annually in the amount of $1000 to an individual 19-23 years of age for participation in a recognized or accredited program in the fields of marine environmental conservation, biology, ecology, research, or training in a diving related program necessary for participation in these fields of endeavor. Donations towards this scholarship may be made by sending a check to Beneath the Sea, 143 Bay Avenue, Hamptons Bays, NY 11946.
The Beneath the Sea Board of Trustees