Bill Howarth was a top Atlantic County athlete, coach, lifeguard captain and sports personality. He always had a sense of humor and a calm demeanor.

Howarth, of Ventnor, died Saturday of pancreatic cancer. He was 61.

He was on the Ventnor Beach Patrol for 48 years and had been its captain since 1987.

Howarth was a standout in football, baseball and swimming at Atlantic City High School but would become best known for swimming and rowing, both as an athlete and as a coach.

He was a quarterback, pitcher and swimmer for the Vikings, winning the state championship in the 400 freestyle. He later swam for Temple and American universities.

“He was not only a champion athlete, but more importantly a champion human being,” Ventnor Beach Patrol Chief Stan Bergman said. “People liked being around him. He made people feel good about themselves. I always admired his poise. In 29 years, I never saw him lose his temper. He was really the heart and soul of the Beach Patrol.”

Howarth, a father of three daughters, coached the ACHS girls swimming team from 2000 to 2014, winning two Cape-Atlantic League American Conference titles in 2010 and 2013 and one South Jersey Public A title in 2010.

He was also a Ventnor firefighter for 25 years before retiring.

He was a fixture of the annual summer lifeguard races. In 1972, Howarth finished second in the swim at the South Jersey Lifeguard Championships. In 1980, he paired with his younger brother, Gary, a lieutenant in the Ventnor Beach Patrol, to win the doubles row in the Margate Beach Patrol World War II Memorial Lifeguard Races.

After retiring from lifeguard-race competition, Howarth became an advocate for creating more races for women. The Cape Atlantic Women’s Lifeguard Invitational, which took place last Wednesday, was renamed in honor of Howarth this year.

He also swam three times in the Atlantic County Beach Patrol Around the Island swim around Absecon Island.

“He was a classy guy,” said Cape May Beach Patrol Lt. Geoff Rife, a 32-year member of his patrol. “I have a ton of respect for him because he was one of the rare lifeguards who could row real well and swim real well. I’ve known Billy since I started.”

The Bud Tarbotton North Wildwood Beach Patrol Around the Island Row, a race Howarth competed in during the 1980s, was held Tuesday. Many at the race knew him well.

“I knew him for a long time, and he was a great member of the Ventnor Beach Patrol and a great family man,” North Wildwood Beach Patrol Chief Tony Cavalier said. “He’ll be sorely missed by everybody.”

Former Ventnor lifeguard Dennis Funk, 64, still competes in the Wildwood row with partner George Miller, another Ventnor alumnus. Funk was on the patrol even before Howarth.

“I knew Billy when he first started on the beach,” Funk said. “He was one of the toughest competitors I’ve known. He was a true warrior. As Billy got older, you could see how he transformed from being a tough competitor into being a great coach and a true mentor. Anybody who knew Billy always considered him a friend.”

Gary Howarth was only a teenager when their father, Bill Howarth Sr., died.

“I learned the determination to win from my father, and when he passed, (Bill) basically became my father,” Gary Howarth said. “He was a quarterback in football and a pitcher in baseball, and those two positions are the natural-born leaders of those sports. He was a leader.”

Like Bergman, Gary Howarth admired how Bill always kept his cool.

“In a big (rowing) race, he was a calming force,” Gary Howarth said. “Most of the time, he was making sure I felt good, and not just in rowing but my whole life. You hear about the calm before the storm, but he was the calm during the storm. He was a rock that people would lean on for calm, support and love.”

Ryan Gaskill, who assisted Bill Howarth for 10 years for the Atlantic City girls swimming team, took over as head coach last winter.