Longtime Hampton Lifeguard Jimmy Donahue Receives Honor
Lifeguard Still Going Strong: 50 Years on the Beach
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, August 21, 2009
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Rich Beauchesne Photo]</</font>
HAMPTON -- Jimmy Donahue has been patrolling the waters of Hampton Beach since he was 16. And as he wraps up his 50th year on the job, the 65-year-old said he has no plans to hang up his orange trunks just yet.
"The rumors of my death, and in my case retirement are greatly exaggerated," Donahue joked. "I intend to be here for another five or six years."
The chief of the Hampton Beach Lifeguards was given a proclamation to mark his golden anniversary at the beach during this week's selectmen's meeting.
The award was given August 17 on behalf of the town of Hampton, Hampton Beach Village Precinct, Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce and New Hampshire Parks.
Seacoast Park Superintendent Brian Warburton said all the major players at the beach who have worked with Donahue wanted to do something to mark his special anniversary on the job.
Warburton called Donahue a pioneer in water safety who has mentored thousands of young men and women throughout his teaching and lifeguard leadership.
"He is our five star at our five-star beach," Warburton said. "His devotion and countless hours spent with generations of families that come each and every year to Hampton Beach has made him a household name."
Donahue began his career as a Hampton Beach lifeguard at the age of 16 during the summer of 1960.
When he started out, he said, "I guess the biggest perk was you got to meet a lot of girls. If you had the orange suit the girls were there. It's not like that today. I wore my bathing suit proudly back then."
He continued to work as a guard during summer breaks from high school and Boston University.
Donahue said he was always an athlete — playing hockey and football in high school as well as collage gaining the nickname Tiger Donahue — and lifeguarding was the perfect fit.
It was also a great summer job when he taught physical education and science at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill, Mass.
Donahue became head of lifeguards in 1973 and this year marks his 34th year in that position overseeing 40 plus guards.
Over the years, Donahue has been credited with making over 500 rescues and has reunited thousands of lost children with their parents.
Donahue said when the guards are able to make a difference — whether it's reuniting a lost child with his mother or saving a young child who gets caught in a rip current — it makes the job worthwhile.
Warburton said Donahue is a major part in why they have one of the best lifeguard squads in the country.
BJ "Doc" Noel, president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce, said Hampton Beach is lucky to have Donahue.
"I can't think of a better guy running the lifeguards than Jim," Noel said. "He knows the waters and he knows this beach."
Donahue said it was in honor receiving the award for just doing a job that he loves.
"It's a dream job," Donahue said, when asked why a man his age keeps coming back to something that most folks think of as a college kid's job. "When I started my 40th year I said, 'I got a couple of more years in me.' But I still feel young."