Family Honor on Smith Point

Family Honor on Smith Point

Published: June 28, 2007, 2:43 PM

Jim Dooley’s father was a lifeguard. His father’s uncle was a lifeguard, too. Now Mr. Dooley himself is chief of the Smith Point lifeguard crew in Long Island.

Smith Point is the easternmost point of Fire Island, attached to the mainland by the Smith Point Bridge and William Floyd Parkway. Mr. Dooley, 42, oversees a crew of about 90 lifeguards who patrol the Smith Point County Park beaches in Suffolk County, which bills itself as “one of the world’s safest beaches.” That’s because there has not been a drowning there since 1959, when Mr. Dooley’s father, Joseph W. Dooley, began working there as a lifeguard when the beach opened.

“We take what we do very seriously,’’ Mr. Dooley said this morning from the beach, where the day started hot and hazy. “One of our main goals here is safety.’’

For Mr. Dooley, keeping people safe on the beach is a matter of family honor. His father’s uncle, Will Dooley, started working as a lifeguard in Long Beach, N.Y., in 1924. Mr. Dooley’s father, Joseph W. Dooley Sr., was a lifeguard for 50 years, beginning in Long Beach, until the day he died at age 70. You can see his picture on the Smith Point lifeguard’s site, looking like Charles Atlas with a floating device.

Joseph Dooley was a legend among lifeguards, and headed a crew that is well-known in lifeguarding circles. The Smith Point lifeguards won the top honors, for the second year in a row, in the National Lifeguard Championships, beating out lifeguard crews from other beaches like Laguna Beach, Calif., or Hawaii.

“Not too many people expected that,’’ said Bob Kolar, the assistant chief at Smith Point. “We’re a seasonal beach, and the other beaches that we beat are year round, like Laguna Beach, Boca Raton. It’s a lot of hard work.’’

When they’re on duty, the crew’s day begins with a three-mile run through deep sand. Later today we’ll talk to one of the lifeguards as they survey the beach. (Read more…)


June 28, 2007

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