(June 7, 2019) The 21st annual relay event honoring former Ocean City Beach Patrol Capt. George Schoepf will take place this Sunday on the beach at Seventh Street, beginning at 10 a.m.
Schoepf was captain of the Ocean City Beach Patrol for nearly 10 years and served the organization for more than 40 – from 1950 to 1996. After serving for a couple years, he was promoted to sergeant, then to lieutenant.
Schoepf moved his family from Pennsylvania to Salisbury and accepted a job at Wicomico High School teaching physical education and coaching track and cross country.
When the patrol personnel increased to over 100 in the 1960s, it was Schoepf’s idea to divide it into crews of seven and have each report to a crew chief who would check attendance and tardiness, if any, as well as see to it that crew members did the required workouts, etc. The idea of an annual crew competition was also Capt. Schoepf’s.
Visitors had a chance to see the various running and swimming abilities of the guards and it continues to be an annual event in Ocean City.
“His background as a teacher and coach made him ideal to lead an organization made up of athletic individuals,” Ocean City Beach Patrol Capt. Butch Arbin said. “Capt. Schoepf was a real mentor to many men [women did not join the patrol until 1978] and they credit him with being like a father to them.”
When Capt. Robert S. Craig retired in 1986, Schoepf took over and, although many still refer to the members of the patrol as “lifeguards,” the official title became “surf rescue technician” or SRT for short.
After Schoepf’s death in 1997, the relay was created in his honor to celebrate his years of service.
In this relay, lifeguards and family members of Schoepf, including his daughter and grandchildren, will pass along a metal buoy throughout the entirety of Ocean City’s shoreline, spanning 10 miles before returning the buoy back to Seventh Street.
“Seventh Street was his beach,” Arbin said. “This is our way of thanking George for all his years of service.”
Metal buoys were used during Schoepf’s time as an assistant lieutenant in the 1980s. Using the buoy for the relay is symbolic for lifeguards and what they use to save lives.
Several lifeguards have already signed up to participate in the event. This list includes beach patrol alumni, who may or may not have worked under Schoepf, as well as current lifeguards.
Schoepf’s wife, Joan, passed away earlier this spring and this year’s swim will honor both Schoepfs.
“Their daughter is having a bench dedication on the Boardwalk at Seventh Street to her mom and dad in front of the Majestic Hotel, which is the place where Capt. Schoepf was a guard on the beach,” Arbin said.
“The Majestic Hotel is very important to my family,” Kerry Schoepf, daughter of George and Joan, said. “It’s where he started as a guard and she would go out and sit with him.”
After the relay, the Majestic Hotel will provide refreshments – all favorites of the Schoepfs, including Thrashers French Fries, Fisher’s caramel popcorn, and King Tut fudge. Friends and family of the Schoepfs can sit around and share stories about the couple.
“She didn’t want a memorial or funeral,” Schoepf said. “This is the best way to honor them being reunited again after 22 years of separation.”
Arbin was very close friends with Schoepf and his wife, who helped his family during a time of need.
“It wasn’t just someone I worked with,” Arbin said. “When my wife had breast cancer, his wife Joan had been through breast cancer so she spent time talking to my wife and helped her get set up with where she should go for treatment. She had a real part of my family’s life because of that.”
Arbin will place a black band around the buoy, in honor of Joan.
People interested in watching the relay can do so from any point on the beach. The beach will still be open for beachgoers to relax and swim.
Anyone interested in participating in the relay can stop by the nearest lifeguard stand and ask about how to join. Or, contact the beach patrol headquarters at 410-289-7556, or visit www.ococean.com/ocbp.
There is no cost to participate.