The aquatics industry lost an influential leader, trainer and mentor with the passing of 30-year veteran Vera Solis. The director of risk management with Typhoon Texas waterpark died June 23 after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 56.
Solis held her post at the Katy, Texas waterpark since 2017, a year after it opened. "She’s an industry legend," said its president, Evan Barnett. "Her wealth of knowledge in industry was vitally important to helping the waterpark grow into a world-class brand."
Earlier, she worked for City of College Station (Texas) Parks and Recreation for 30 years.
Known for her frequently uttered "hydrate and rotate" as a key strategy for managing the Texas heat, she is credited for helping hundreds of young aquatics professionals mature not only in the field, but in their lives as well. "She was dedicated, inspiring and always positive, even as she fought her illness,” Barnett said.
She was a senior associate with Ellis & Associates, a title she held since the company's early days. E&A officials credit her contributions to the company's and industry's culture and education.
"As a lifeguard, lifeguard instructor and instructor trainer, Vera was instrumental in establishing the culture of accountability and safety in aquatics that are hallmarks of E&A," the company said in comments provided to AI.
She played a key role in various E&A training programs. She also served as an E&A auditor, faculty member of the National Aquatic Safety School and International Aquatic Safety School (IASS), as well as IASS director and E&A Advisory Board member.
"Her compassionate approach to education, ability to encourage a weak candidate and build up confidence, and passion combined with grace would find a way to take the least confident instructor candidate and develop a confident/competent instructor," the E&A staff said.
Solis' industry honors included the E&A Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009; the World Waterpark Association’s Kelly Ogle Safety Award for contributions to guest and employee safety in 2017; and induction into WWA’s Hall of Fame in 2019 for contributions to water safety.
Elvera Ann Vowell Solis was born Sept. 23, 1964 in Casper, Wyo. In her early life, she spent plenty of time around water, including swimming, boating and fishing, her friends at E&A explained. Aiming to teach biology and coach swimming, she attended Texas A&M University in College Station. She started with the city as a lifeguard, eventually becoming its aquatics director.
"She loved the people she met along the way, which kept her engaged and enthusiastic throughout her career," E&A said. "And we all loved her right back! Vera was drawn to the mission of zero drownings. Everything she [did] was meant to work toward that mission."