“He just had a great enthusiasm for working,” said Long Beach Chief of Lifeguards Paul Gillespie. “He came in every morning, always cheerful. He will be missed. It’s hard to replace guys like him.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 13, a large crowd of family, friends and current and retired lifeguards gathered at National Boulevard beach to honor the life of George Schilling, a Long Beach lifeguard for 50 years and former assistant chief. Schilling, 72, died on July 21, in Singer Island, Fla. He is survived by his wife, Ellen, his sister, Suzanne, and his brother, Garrett.
The crowd at the memorial came to give Schilling a send off in true lifeguard style. After friends shared memories of Schilling, two of his friends, Tom Daly, a retired lifeguard supervisor, and John Skudin, a current lifeguard supervisor, paddled out to scatter Schilling’s ashes and set a wreath out on the water in front of National beach, the site of former lifeguard headquarters, where Schilling had spent so much of his life. Lifeguards on the beach gave Schilling a “three-whistle salute” at the close of the ceremony.
Friends remembered Schilling as a dedicated lifeguard, an excellent teacher and a devoted husband. Friends said that he and his wife were the best of friends and as close as could be.
“There was no George without Ellen, and no Ellen without George,” said friend and fellow lifeguard Vinny Leis.
The first thing many friends said about Schilling was how intelligent he was. He always had a fact or piece of wisdom to share, and if he didn’t know the answer to a question, it wouldn’t take him long to found out. Gillespie said that he knew everything there was to know about the beach, and so many benefited from his knowledge. Off the beach, Daly said that Schilling loved to travel and cook, creating gourmet recipes and pairing them with the perfect wine for dinner with friends.
“He had such a genuine and beautiful heart, and for me he was like a second father,” said lifeguard Chris Sullivan, who worked with him in headquarters for six years. “It’s amazing the things he brought as far as intelligence and kind words. He will truly be missed by me.”