By Jana Mackin
Dozens of veteran and current lifeguards shared generations of memories, smiles and tears in a calling that has evolved from metal buoys to jet skis on Saturday for a reunion of Wrightsville Beach lifeguards and the dedication of the Wrightsville Beach Lifeguard Memorial.
The afternoon featured historic exhibits, photographs, guest speakers, talks and stories among this fraternity of water men and women. Likewise it featured a renovated life guard station as a centerpiece memorial for all lifeguards with name plaques of deceased lifeguards. Both the reunion and the memorial constituted a testament to the continuity, camaraderie and skill of life-guarding, organizers said. The event honored all local lifeguards living and dead and brought together veterans and new generations of lifeguards to learn and reminisce.
In his welcome speech, Ray Funderburk, a reunion organizer and lifeguard who started at Wrightsville Beach in 1971, reached out to the veterans as well those of the Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue. Once a life guard always a life guard- bridging the generations with the similarities as well as difference. Be it an local octogenarian who guarded the beach in the 1940s to some wannabe junior lifeguard, all share the same essential mission and ethos of ever vigilant public service. This is the fourth of these reunions that started in 1985.
“Looking around at the guys I guarded with, a museum is the right place for a whole bunch of us. Our memories are far gentler then our mirrors. We’re happy to welcome them. I ask the old guards and the new guards to look around at each other and think about this, “Funderburk said. “We did the same thing at the same places. The names are all the same.”
Such sentiments were shared by John Scull, lifeguard Lieutenant with the Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue and full-time engineer/firefighter with Wrightsville Beach Fire Department.
“We were happy to be included. Eight decades of life guarding and we still jump out of the stand, grab a buoy and fins and save somebody,” said Scull.
Saving somebody is at the heart of the #12 lifeguard memorial that was refurbished by John C. Drewry IV, a 1970s beach lifeguard and reunion contributor. The labor of love includes the name plaque of his late brother, Banks Holt Drewry, as well as some others.
“I did it partially in honor of my brother,” said Drewry, “but also in honor of all the lifeguards. Many of the lifeguards whose names are on the stand, I knew.”
The event honored all local lifeguards living and dead and brought together veterans and new generations of lifeguards to learn and reminisce.