Henry "Skip" Flanagan: 1962-1967
The lessons and values of the beach patrol have a special way of sticking with you once life has forced you in another direction. That notion holds true with alumnus, Skip Flanagan. After working for the WCBP for six summers, Skip dedicated himself to a career in education and coaching. While earning a Ph.D, Skip studied at some of the most prestigious universities in the country. Presently, Skip serves both as the Dean and Head Lacrosse Coach of the esteemed Avon Old Farms School in Avon, CT. Aside from mentoring countless students over the years, Skip has also built his lacrosse program into a national powerhouse that is routinely ranked among the top 25 high schools in the country.
What made you join the beach patrol?
Although I hailed from Maryland, I had grandparents and an aunt and uncle (Dave Snyder of the Wildwood Crest Police Dept.) who lived year round in the Crest. Therefore, my summers, throughout my childhood were always spent in New Jersey. I grew up always looking up to those on the Beach Patrol and hoped that, one day, I would be a guard. As it turned out, I was fortunate enough to experience many years on the stands and as a Lieutenant in the jeep.
What are some of your best memories from your years with the WCBP?
I recall the excitement that came along with situations that involved rescues where a combination of individual (swimmers) and boats were used. In my many years, this did not happen very often, but when it did it proved to be memorable indeed. On the other extreme, I liked the infrequent days when the weather took us away from the duties on the beach and the vast majority of us were involved in a most competitive game of touch football in the shadow of the Rambler Road Station. The level of play would probably not have gained interest from either Sports Illustrated or ESPN!
From a personal standpoint, I was able to serve along with my younger cousin, Tom Snyder, for a couple of seasons. Being with Tom, a really dedicated guard, was a bonus.
Tell us about your life after the beach.
For the most part, life after the "beach" included education and study that has kept me in schools and universities ever since. Rutgers, Harvard and Michigan found me toiling away in their collective libraries through the Ph.D level and I served as a Headmaster and Dean at prep schools for 44 years. I still work in that capacity at Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut. Lacrosse remains my sport of choice and I've been fortunate enough to be on the coaching staff for The English National Team in recent World Championships, having previously coached The University of Michigan, The Peddie School, Western Reserve Academy and Avon.
I married the "girl" who was so very much a part of my life while I was on the Patrol. Britt and I recently celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. We have two daughters and five grandchildren, two of whom are in college. She has been the best part of my life and I count my blessings. I managed to link up with a beautiful, intelligent, kind and understanding "trophy wife" from the get go...how lucky is that!
How has the beach patrol impacted your life?
I so enjoyed the sense of "brotherhood" within the organization and the feeling of "good will" that we shared. On a more serious light, the notion of preparing for events (rescues) that would only infrequently occur was a good lesson indeed. We all knew that when the time came, we would have to depend on preparation and practice. On balance, it paid off when it was needed! I'd also have to say that getting in shape mentally and physically for the end of the season Lifeguard Championships was good practice for other applications in other fields of endeavor later in life..... I also felt that the "chain of command" helped to teach the importance of taking on more responsibility as one was elevated to a higher position on the patrol. Trying to manage the various personalities, strengths, weaknesses and egos of the various guards while getting the job done and keeping the beach safe was a lesson unto itself sometimes.
What advice would you give a young guard today?
Cherish your time on the Patrol! The years go far too quickly and the multiple elements of life will come your way soon enough. Know that you must always be willing to be diligent and prepared as your maturity and timely reaction to multiple situations matters greatly. While, in many ways, being on the patrol provides an idyllic summer experience, it also carries with it significant responsibilities. As the Coast Guard's motto, "Semper Paratus".....Always Ready. Indicates, be prepared for all that comes your way through preparation....not a bad lesson for life!