Monday, January 4, 2010

Celebration of Life For Don Spitler, Sat., Jan. 16, 2010 at 1 pm.

Just in from Chief Don Rohrer, Ret:

The Memorial Service for Don Spitler, S.O.L, R.I.P. is set for:

Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 1 pm in front of Santa Monica Lifeguard HQ.

(Photo & Copyr. Tom Thorson 2009. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission.)

*** First 80 cars park free "on the Santa Monica Pier" (Courtesy of City of Santa Monica and Section Chief William M. Gallagher). ***

WHEN: 1300 hrs (1pm), Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010
WHERE: In front of SMHQ

Questions; Please Call Don Rohrer at: 310.379.9162

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

(12.03.09 Update: Editorial Correction. In a phone conversation yesterday afternoon with retired Chief Don Rohrer, "County Recurrent" gladly corrects the record regarding the speculation of what would have happened if a car was approaching Spit after 2 a.m. after his way back to SMHQ from Chez Jay. Don convincingly argued that Spitler would have jumped up on the hood of any approaching vehicle and he would have laughed at the driver ! Such were the cat-like gymnastics skills of Spitey ! I was also informed of a lifeguard party many years ago where at least six lifeguards tried to throw Spitler in the pool and were unable to do so... such were his grappling skills ! Let the record reflect these corrections.)

The Lifeguard Fraternity, specifically, L.A. County Beach Lifeguards, recently lost one of its members, namely, Don Spitler, aka "Spit". Don passed away on Nov. 21, 2009 at the age of 70.

Shown here in July 2008, at center, is Don with Jimmy Makuta (at left) and Fred Finley (at right), on the occasion of Dave Estey's retirement party in Marina Del Rey, Calif.

"County Recurrent Op/Ed": Who would have bet that Spit would have passed away peacefully in bed ?!... Come on ! God Bless him but alot of people lost money on this bet. Spit is laughing right now up in heaven with some of our other Lifeguard Fraternity In The Sky ! More likely, and we mean with this all due love and respect,
but we were more likely to hear of Spit getting run over by a car as he was weaving through traffic trying to negotiate crossing Ocean Ave. from Chez Jay (while off duty, of course) and on his way back to SMHQ at 2 a.m. (x-ref: 12.03.09 correction above, courtesy of Chief Don Rohrer). Or he would have died as a result of knife wounds breaking up a fight and dragging Goble out of Big Dean's on the promenade behind SMHQ (off duty, of course). Or from a loss of blood suffered in a hail of bullets directed at 201 (Call Car) intended for Rex at the hand of a jealous husband.

Thinking about Spit, can anyone remember a dialogue with him that did not include his truly infectious laughter, his ever present smile and laugh. I can't. I can't remember a single conversation that did not involve laughter, camaraderie, his smile and his sense of humor and friendship. That is certainly one clear measure of this man, this brother, this friend of ours. He loved his family and friends and was extremely loyal. When I saw him at Makuta's Retirement Party in late June 2008 and a couple of weeks later at Dave Estey's Retirement Party in July 2008 and took his photo (below) and again took his photo (above) with Jimmy and Fred, he said, "Sorry, what was your name again. I can't remember names too well". I said, "Maguire", and he said something like, "Of course, Maguire!".... and then he laughed his famous laugh with his Big Smile and then he had me laughing too. Typical Spitler !

(Left to right, Don Spitler, John Moryl, and Randy Steigley; on the occasion of Jimmy Makuta's Retirement Party, June 2008. Photo by Will Maguire.)

God Bless you, Don ! On the eve of Thanksgiving, we can all give thanks for the privilege of having shared in Don's life and laughter.
We were all privileged to know him and to work with him and to share in his sense of humor, friendship and dedication to duty. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.


Will Maguire,
"County Recurrent" News

P.S.: Some Comments From Our Brethren:

Steve Contarsy, Recurrent, 11.25.09, remarked: "Nice job on Spitler. Dude, he was one funny, friendly, and loyal friend and comrade. We all will miss him. Steve."

Arthur C. Verge, Recurrent, 11.25.09, remarked:
"Will - wonderful write up on Don. You captured much of what made Spit so fun to be around - especially his infectious laugh. Anyone who knew Don is deeply saddened by his passing. He was a great guy who made all of us laugh and smile. And who could forget the night of his retirement party? Story after story - each one a classic. Here is one I would like to share - I was working notorious SM #15. The place as usual was out of control and adding to our woes was a man who demanded that he be allowed to take his plastic raft out in the surf. On my third attempt at explaining why he couldn't take his "99 cent only" plastic raft out in the surf - "its unsafe, it can blow away, its slippery and you can fall off..." I spy the Call Car on the backside of the beach. I fratically waved it over. Don, from the passenger side, asked, "What's wrong?" I excitedly told him and then in one fluid move he got out of the truck (while Rex remained at the wheel) and quietly walked over, cigarette in hand. As I continue to argue with the guy, Don simply said, "Let me see the raft." The guy handed it to him. Before you could blink your eye we heard a loud - "Pop!" Don then handed the now deflated raft back to the guy and said, "Yup, its not safe." Don then got in the call car and in a flash he and Rex drove off leaving me with the stunned man. It was the first and only time that I had seen a cigarette used as an effective lifesaving tool. God rest his sweet soul - there was no one like Spit. The man was a legend. Arthur."


LACOLA Alumni, Nov. 22, 2009, Posting follows:

From: Lifeguard Alumni

Sent: Saturday, November 21, 2009 9:17 PM

Subject: Sad news the passing of Don Spitler

Hello all,

We regret to have to inform you of the passing of retired Senior Ocean Lifeguard and fellow Alumni Don Spitler. He passed away this morning, November 21, 2007. He was 70.

As details of his service become available we will pass them along.

Nick Steers

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Anonymous said...

Don and I worked together at Gillis in Dockweiler for two years. This was just prior to the whole McMartin School fiasco, and Babs would bring the kids down to the tower a couple of times a week. They were such a happy family and Don was a doting father. He and I had a lot of laughs at Gillis. Worked out together and watched each other's back. It was a crowded area of the beach, and when there was a swell, we worked our tails off dragging kids around the groyne and pulling them off the buoyline. Some days, when the beach was empty, we would pass the time by playing a beach version of horseshoes using a frisbee. You had to hang the frisbee on the center peg to score. Of course, those days were pre-County, and Jerry Balonich was the lieutenant. I spend some of my best and most rewarding days as a lifeguard working with Don. I regret having lost touch with him over the years, but I'll always remember him now as a dedicated, yet happy-go-lucky guy with the cast iron legs.

John "JJ" johnson

Buddy Bohn said...

ode to Spit,
Don was core! During our merger between the City and County he remained the cities man, defiant I'd say. During this time we both lived in Manhattan Beach and Don was the coach of my daughter's soccer team, which gave us an opportunity to relate outside of lifeguarding. Don's humor and self deprecating attitude could disarm anyone; He'd bring the discussion down to it's most basic elements and down play the emotions. Basically he knew when to laugh it off and not take it too seriously. Thank you Don, that helped in a very difficult time. Anyway, our girls survived the soccer play and Don and I had a common respect of how our profession could advance.
I feel that many of our current guards don't understand the former guards culture of cigarette smoking which has completely changed in the last thirty years. When you walked into any lifeguard headquarters prior to the mid 70's it would be filled with cigarette smoke and strong language.Men were men and ocean life saving was as macho as it could get; us college boys had better man up.
I'd better say now, I'm not evangelistic about tobacco, but the last four generations of Bohn men have died as a result of smoking.
Don was old school, he'd laugh at fate, spit into the wind; he was a tough guy. Don would smoke a butt into the shorebreak, spit it out and perform a routine dive or a recheck, it was part of who he was.
Don lived his life as the man he was and supported his family trough the most difficult of times. The Salem witch trials are a good reference to the McMartin trials Don and his family endured in Manhattan Beach.We cannot imagine what he and his family went through and sacrificed to declare their innocence and defend their name and honor. Don's commitment to his wife and family is a benchmark in loyalty.
I'd like you all to take a moment this evening and raise your glass to Don Spitler, a man you would be proud to have by your side on any rescue.
Buddy Bohn