Decades-long careers are usually arrived at with some serious forethought, or at least a few years of searching.

But for Janie Shirley, all it took was a friend’s wet hair.

“I was at the grocery, and I saw a friend whose hair was just sopping, so I asked her what she’d been doing,” Shirley says. “She told me about water aerobics, and I said, ‘That sounds like something I’d like.’”

Because Shirley is, in her own estimation, a “born natural”, it was only a month after she started taking classes that the pool tapped her to start teaching some of her own. The rest is history. Shirley is celebrating her 28th year as a water aerobics instructor, a long and storied career that has seen her teaching courses at nearly every Lake Highlands pool, including countless private ones.

Shirley still has the zealotry of a new convert for the aquatic exercise, eager to spout out technical data on its benefits to anyone who’ll listen and dismissing any notion that, at 65, she might be getting burned out on the profession.

“My friend Florence started around the same time as me, and she’s 92 now,” Shirley says. “She’s still doing it. Why shouldn’t I?”