The Class of 2018
Four Inducted into Sea Isle Beach Patrol Hall of Fame
By Dave Bontempo
From left: Dr. Sean Harbison, Greg Horton, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, Miles Lederer and Tom Flood (representing SICBP’s first captain, John Coleman) pose at the induction ceremony.
Sean Harbison fondly greets Sea Isle City Beach Patrol reunions.
“The waves get larger, the come-from-behind margins get bigger and the stories get better,” says the grinning professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, more than three decades removed from being a lieutenant and assistant captain for the Sea Isle patrol. “It’s always been a lot of fun.”
This time, the waves were emotional. Harbison, Miles Lederer, Greg Horton and the late John Coleman, Sea Isle’s first beach patrol captain, were inducted into the Sea Isle City Beach Patrol Hall of Fame on July 7.
The group was enshrined with an SICBP Alumni Association event in the Oar House Pub. A plaque, along with proclamations from Mayor Leonard Desiderio and state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, heightened the occasion. This induction recognized the persistence, achievement and commitment that ultimately forged their professional careers.
Lederer serves as an operations manager for the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y.
Horton has been an athletic director and assistant principal in the Clearview School District and a part-time historian for South Jersey lifeguard races.
Coleman made this a livelihood, installing numerous innovations and shaping the modern patrol.
The lifeguard family has always been tight. Ancestry.com could weave a path through this circuit, linking generations of intertwined families. Horton and Harbison share that distinction, as brothers-in-law. Lederer is one of at least seven family members who served the beach patrol. Even those who are not related share a bond: a lifeguard chair is a reward.
“This is no doubt the world’s greatest job,” Horton says. “You see amazing things, from calm seas and sunsets, to being around people who are in such a good mood all the time and you meet a lot of great friends. There is something magical when everybody comes down the shore.
Dr. Sean Harbison
“It’s addicting. Learning from other guards, partaking of what was being offered to me and making these great friendships was a lifetime gift,” he says. “They were unbelievable years for me in the Sea Isle patrol. I was grateful just to be considered for this hall of fame. Making it is an unbelievable honor and makes you feel very proud.”
Horton, a native of Vineland, became hooked at 17, earning the princely sum of $22 a day to guard. He made the most of 12 years on the patrol, authoring victories in the city swim in 1985, 1989 and 1990. He completed the SICBP SuperAthalon competition and captured county championships in the surf bash for Sea Isle City. He also served a stint as the Stone Harbor patrol captain before returning to Sea Isle.
Like many guards, Horton sandwiched the summer era between a September-to-June school career. Unlike many, he found a unique thread to preserve lifeguard tradition. Horton started and developed Guardin State, a company that highlights the area race circuit all summer. Content is available on Vimeo (via guardinstatelifeguarding.com) and captures the feel of competition at varied events. It is an unofficial library of lifeguard racing. One event last year prompted more than 160,000 hits.
“Many people don’t realize what tremendous athletes these competitors are,” he says. “Some have gone to the Olympic trials, others have been part of national teams, representing the United States in running, swimming and rowing. I put together a vignette of some races and have shown it to people in hopes people will appreciate it and give it more exposure.”
The Harbison-Horton tandem has long existed and, with this induction, reached a movie-script level.
Lt. Sean Harbison presents SICBP scholarships to Leslie Davis and Louise Belluci.
They met while Horton served as a mascot in the junior program and Harbison was a rookie sitting on 77th Street. Harbison later married Horton’s sister, Sue, whom he met on the Promenade. The couple have a house on 77th Street and two children, one of whom served on the patrol. Harbison was an eight-year patrol member and excelled on several surf-bash teams that placed well in events like the Tri-Cities.
After all their connections, going back decades, Harbison and Horton authored one more encore. They entered the hall together.
“Through the beach-patrol family, there are friends and family that I have stayed in touch with my entire life,” says Harbison, who grew up in Abington, outside Philadelphia. “Older guards would laugh at you, prank with you, give you advice and help you through. Everything in my life sort of happened through summers in Sea Isle. There is a thread that runs through everything.”
Miles and Sean Lederer: SICBP 1-mile doubles rowing champions in 1982.
Even a different form of lifesaving. Harbison once performed a hysterectomy on a 218-pound gorilla named Demba, from the Philadelphia Zoo. Demba suffered from an 11-pound fibroid tumor inside her uterus. The process went smoothly, even though Harbison performed the surgery without any examination beforehand or previous X-rays.
“I kind of became known for that,” he laughs, while noting he would not make a habit of this because “it’s tough to bill a gorilla.”
Lederer has an exhilarating, yet poignant, perspective of his eight beach-patrol years. Long before he became a gaming operative, wielding his customer-service magic through Atlantic City, Delaware and now New York, the Philadelphia native had a life on sand and water. Before rowing at Temple and being a captain of its crew team, he was a city patrol singles champion in 1981 and a doubles winner with brothers Gerry in 1979 and Sean in 1982.
These days, his life may be about juggling the demands in a multibillion-dollar industry, but the past has come alive.
Miles Lederer was the SICBP 1,000-foot singles rowing champion in 1981.
“This is one of the biggest honors of my life,” Lederer says. “I have been associated with first-class operations and been in many premier properties, but of everything, being inducted into the lifeguard hall of fame is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. You think about how many men and women put on that shirt and whistle and then to be recognized as one of these great athletes? Boy, oh, boy, my dad would have been tickled pink to see his kid out of Philly in the lifeguard hall of fame!”
His dad, Thomas, garnered the Sea Isle Beach Patrol’s respect in a moment Lederer never forgot.
“This is a lifelong relationship we have,” Lederer says of the patrol. “I have been away from this for about 30 years, but when my dad passed away, you cannot imagine how many of the Sea Isle lifeguards, old and new, showed up in Philadelphia for my father’s funeral. It meant the world to me. It was a true measure that they went out of their way to show love and respect for him.”
Family connections go back a long way for Lederer. Seven family members have been lifeguards and his niece, Becky Lederer, now a Philadelphia attorney, was inducted into the Sea Isle Hall of Fame last year. Miles Lederer recalls his Sea Isle tenure like it was yesterday, while acknowledging, “I think I won the singles championships back before they invented oars.”
John Coleman saved many lives as a guard and then became the first official captain of the Sea Isle Patrol, appointed in 1919, according to John McCann, the president of the Sea Isle City Hall of Fame Committee.
“John Coleman was a tremendous long-distance swimmer,” McCann notes. “He consistently swam across the treacherous inlets racing against other long-distance swimmers. John also started some initiatives to keep bathers safe, where he placed the boat out among the crowd for a quick response.”
Coleman’s accomplishments included building a new lifeguard stand, training patrol members and developing a rescue system. He started public demonstrations to heighten awareness about good training for the guards and created pride among them with an excellent safety record. He purchased new uniforms and badges for the guards.
The SICBP Hall of Fame honors, going back to 2001, are a win-win for the patrol. Administrators use it to keep tradition alive. Inductees enjoy a moment for the ages.
And it’s one story they won’t need to embellish.