Jones Beach played a huge role in George Marth's life.
His nighttime childhood visits led to a summer lifeguard career that culminated with him serving as head of the Long Island state park lifeguards. And Jones Beach was where he met his wife.
Marth, who taught physical education for 35 years at Baldwin Junior High School, died Monday at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx of prostate cancer. He was 82.
Born in Brooklyn, he moved with his family to Queens Village when he was a child. Then he lived with his aunt and uncle in Point Lookout so he could attend and play football at Long Beach High School. He received a football scholarship to Wayne State University in Detroit.
While in high school, Marth tried out for a Jones Beach summer lifeguard job in 1946. On his first day at the East Bathhouse, he told Newsday in 2006, "I got up on the stand and thought I was at home plate of Yankee Stadium. There must have been 100,000 people around us."
Within 10 minutes, he participated in his first rescue.
"He was just as honest as could be and helpful, and he didn't brook any junk, and everybody respected him for that," said Jay O'Neill of Wantagh, who started working for Marth at Jones Beach in 1953 and continued for close to 10 years.
Marth was promoted to water safety director, in charge of all lifeguards.
He held that job in 1968 when the first female lifeguards were hired.
"It wasn't a big deal," Marth is quoted in John Hanc's "Jones Beach: An Illustrated History." "I knew that some of the women were very good swimmers. Some of them could beat a lot of the guys."
Tom Donovan, of West Islip, the head of the lifeguard union, said, "George was always a very fair man. He was a pleasure to be around."
It was in his third summer at the beach that he noticed Peggy McIntosh, who was starting a modeling career that would put her on the cover of Cosmopolitan. Marth wrangled an introduction and they were married three years later. His wife of 34 years died in 1987, the same year he left his teaching and lifeguard positions.
Marth is survived by his daughter, Heather Fiala, of Garden City, and three grandchildren.
A funeral Mass is 10:45 a.m. Friday at St. Christopher's Church in Baldwin, followed by burial at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury. The family asks that donations be sent to the Jones Beach Rescue Organization (jonesbeachrescue.org).