The San Diego City Council on April 16 unanimously approved funding “not to exceed $20,000” to help pay for a bronze lifeguard statue with a concrete foundation and an adjacent three-foot-square bronze plaque. The two bronzes will be installed on a grassy area next to the Ocean Beach lifeguard station, at 1950 Abbott Street.
The statue (not modeled after anyone in particular) and plaque honor San Diego lifeguards and memorialize 13 soldiers from Camp Kearny who drowned in 1918. The tragedy led to the establishment of a professional lifeguard service in San Diego. The late Robert Baxley, an attorney, superior-court judge, author, and 1950s lifeguard, envisioned the memorial project.
The Ocean Beach community was involved in fundraising around $23,000 for the project. Total cost will run $40,000 to $43,000, according to volunteer project manager and former city councilman Byron Wear of the San Diego Lifesaving Association (sdlifesaving.org). The city will provide the additional funds through its Community Projects, Programs and Services department.
The six-foot, three-inch bronze-patina lifeguard statue and memorial plaque were created by sculptor Richard Arnold of Telluride, Colorado. Arnold grew up in Ocean Beach and attended Point Loma High School. He has completed many veterans' projects and other public works over the years.
Arnold told the Reader. “We are scheduled to unveil the lifeguard on May 23.” The artist said he was raised by a single mom, and the O.B. lifeguards “really were my father figures. They were old, like, 24 or 25.” Arnold said he took part in the first junior-lifeguard program.