His real name was George Lafferty Sr., but for almost 50 years, nobody called him that.
Instead, he was Cap, short for captain, which was Lafferty’s title on the Ocean City Beach Patrol. Even his own family called him Cap, says George Lafferty Jr.
The elder Lafferty was captain — then the lifeguards’ top job — from 1962 to 1983. But even when he retired, he never really left the OCBP.
So in June, he was honored when the beach patrol dedicated a lifeboat to him. That gesture came just in time for Lafferty, who lived in Ocean City and whose health had suffered in the last few years. He died last month, at 93.
Ollie Muzslay, who followed Lafferty as captain, says after Lafferty retired, he still dropped in often at OCBP headquarters. And when Muzslay went to South Jersey Lifeguard Chiefs Association meetings, Lafferty would join him.
“He was like a king holding court,” says Muzslay, who adds that Lafferty co-founded the chiefs’ group.
His team was also the king of the local lifeguard races in his career: Ocean City won 15 South Jersey championships in Lafferty’s 22 years, 11 of them in a row.
Cap was an OCBP guard himself for just a few years, in the 1930s, then he joined the U.S. Navy before World War II. In 1941, he was about to marry Bettie Stevenson when he was ordered to active duty. He got a weekend’s leave for the wedding, but the marriage lasted for 71 years.
Lafferty rose to chief quartermaster in 27 years in the Navy, through World War II and the Korean War, then retired in 1961. The next year, he was hired by the OCBP, and he was hooked.
“I think he enjoyed the younger people,” says Bettie, now 95. “We both did.”
And those younger guards apparently enjoyed their Cap. Lots of them still came to see him after he retired — and some still visit her now, Bettie adds.
But that’s not to say that he was always genial, gentle and kind.
Tom Mullineaux, now the OCBP’s chief, remembers meeting his longtime boss in 1965.
“He was a Navy vet, and I was just out of high school, and to be honest, I was scared to death of him,” Mullineaux says. “He had a gruff voice, and he commanded respect. ... He was a big guy with a barrel chest, and he was used to the military way.”
He was tough. He demanded his workers’ best, but he would give people a chance to shape up.
“He used to say fair, firm and friendly,” says Ed Yust, 71, of Ocean City, a guard under Lafferty who became a lieutenant, and a friend.
“He knew how to handle people,” Yust says, admitting that “I gave him trouble my first year, and Cap toned me down. He’d give you another chance to show him you could do it. ... He tried to make you make something of yourself.”
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