OCBP Alumni Of The Week, Joe Warfield, Once A lifeguard, Always A Lifeguard

OCBP Alumni Of The Week, Joe Warfield, Once A lifeguard, Always A Lifeguard
Joe Warfield is pictured with a fellow lifeguard. Submitted Photos

(Editor’s Note: The following is a series on the men and women who have spent their summers protecting all those who came to Ocean City for fun and safe vacation.)

OCEAN CITY – (The following submission is from Dinah Wimbrow-Warfield.)

My brother Eddie guarded on various streets downtown in Ocean City. One summer, it happened that I was able to get a job as a beach stand girl for S&H Beach Service. My stand was on the south side of the pier, right where Eddie and his crew mates were guarding, and I got to know them pretty well. That’s how the OCBP guard Joe Warfield and I met.

Joe grew up in Ocean City. He lived on 6th Street in a house right on the Boardwalk that was owned by his grandfather and his parents. Needless to say, he was lucky enough to have the opportunity to watch the waves and the beach, long past his OCBP days. Ocean City was his home and summers on the beach patrol just seemed natural for him, and he helped keep the beach safe from the late ’70’s to the early ’80’s.

The summer we met came and went, and so did the both of us. But as luck would have it, we ran into each other about 10 years later and started dating. We ended up getting married in 1998.

A friend of his, shared a story with me about a drowning situation that happened right in front of Joe’s family house on 6th Street, years after his beach patrol days. Joe was often busy there, renting out bikes to visitors, or other times, doing general maintenance around the property. One evening Joe was working at the house when he and his friend noticed two couples who took off swimming in the ocean. The conditions were not safe and to make matters worse, at the time they went in, the beach was unguarded.  The four people quickly got caught up in a rip current and couldn’t get out.

Joe immediately knew he had to do something. He grabbed his friend, and the pair raced across the Boardwalk and over to the beach. They scrambled to gather whatever people they could find to help them, and Joe directed the group to form a human chain. With a great deal of effort, they were able to get both of the women out safely.  Getting to the men in time proved much more difficult. The human chain had worked. Joe had been able to get the men back onto the beach, but the strain and the severity of the rip had proved too much for them. They were barely alive when the ambulance showed up.

Joe ended up driving the women to Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, where the men had been transported. He had given his all to save everyone, but unfortunately, neither of the men survived. Joe even stayed at the hospital for several hours to do what he could to help the women.

Joe was so crushed by the incident. I remember him telling me about it, and how upset he had been when he came home, because he couldn’t do more to save these guys in such unexpected circumstances. I think his friend was in awe of Joe’s quick thinking of the human chain, and I was really so proud to hear the story again, even though the outcome was not a happy one. I thought, “Once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard.”

The story was related to me by his friend during Joe’s Celebration of Life. Joe Warfield passed away suddenly in June of 2019 and he is still missed by all who knew him.

I have so many memories of local guys I knew who were on the OCBP. Like Joe, they were really “unsung heroes.” I always feel just a little bit safer in the water and on the beach, because you can be sure that each and every one of them will stop everything to save someone in trouble.