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.
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Ventnor lifeguard Captain Bill Howarth, of Ventnor, stands on the deck of lifeguard headquarters at Suffolk Avenue and the beach, in Ventnor. Ventnor lifeguards begin preparations to get their HQ, stations, stands and boats ready for the first summer season after Sandy. Tuesday, April, 2, 2013( Press of Atlantic City/ Danny Drake)
Atlantic City coach Bill Howarth celebration with his swim team after win over Vineland for South Jersey Public A girls championship swimming meet at Gloucester Co. Institute of Technology Thursday, Feb 18, 2010.
Tuesday April 1 2014 Lifeguard captain Bill Howarth sets up a lifeguard stand in front of Ventnor City Hall to signal the sale of beach tags for the town's beaches. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)
Hedshot of Bill Howarth, Girls swim coach at Atlantic City High school, Wednesday Nov. 28, 2012. (The Press of Atlantic City/Staff Photo by Michael Ein)
Lt. Rob Wagner and Capt. Bill Howarth of Ventnor Beach Patrol get life boats off of the beach at the Suffolk Ave beach in Ventnor. The effects of hurricane Earl are beginning to be seen on the area waterways. Thursday, September 02, 2010.(The Press of Atlantic City/Anthony Smedile)
Lt. John Hazlett and Capt. Bill Howarth , of the Ventnor Beach Patrol start getting beach patrol stands ready at the Ventnor Beach Patrol headquarters on the Somerset Ave. for Memorial Day weekend. Friday May 28 2010.
Lt. John Hazlett and Capt. Bill Howarth of the Ventnor Beach Patrol load a beach patrol stand on a truck to be taken to a different location on the beach at the Ventnor Beach Patrol headquarters on the Somerset Ave. for Memorial Day weekend. Friday May 28 2010.
Bob Soifer, left show a picture of himself as a Ventnor Lions Little League baseball player to Bill Howarth, right was a member of 1967 team during memorial dinner for Pat Conover, a long-time Ventnor Lions Little League coach, coached for 30 years, who died before people could hold a reunion in his memory at Steve & Cookies By the Bay Wednesday, March 31, 2010.
Ventnor Beach Patrol captain, Bill Howarth Jr. (center) talks with Steve Chasens (left) and Ryan Adler, both of Ventnor. Friday August 5 2011 Margate Memorial Lifeguard Races. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)
Ventnor Beach Patrol captain, Bill Howarth Jr. and his wife Patty. Friday August 5 2011 Margate Memorial Lifeguard Races. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)
Ventnor Beach Patrol captain, Bill Howarth Jr. (left) talks with Scott Jones of Ventnor. Friday August 5 2011 Margate Memorial Lifeguard Races. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)
Ventnor lifeguard Captain Bill Howarth, of Ventnor, walks on the beach in front of the lifeguard headquarters at Suffolk Avenue and the beach, in Ventnor. Ventnor lifeguards begin preparations to get their HQ, stations, stands and boats ready for the first summer season after Sandy. Tuesday, April, 2, 2013( Press of Atlantic City/ Danny Drake)
Bill Howarth, captain of the Ventor Beach Patrol, opens up the beach tent off Dorset Avenue, in Ventnor, Monday 5/13/02, in preparation for the opening of the beaches Memorial Day Weekend when they will be protected by lifeguards. Beaches are protected in Ventnor beginning Saturday, May 25.
EHT Seacats coach, Billy Howarth, gives his team a last minute pep talk before the start of the meet against the APEX Seacats (Aquatic Club of Atlantic City) at the EHTHS pool. Sat. 1/6/01
Handout photo of a thresher shark held by Ventnor Beach Patrol Lt. Gary Howarth, left, Capt. Bill Howarth, Greg Smith and Mike Advena, right, in Atlantic City.
New lifeguard station dedicated in name of John van Duyne Sr., inventor of standard shore lifeguard rescue boat. Ventnor Beach Patrol Captain Bill Howarth presents a plaque to Eileen Van Duyne, widow of lifeboat maker John Van Duyne at a ceremony dedicating a new lifeguard station in his honor.
Ventnor lifeguard Captain Bill Howarth, of Ventnor, removes the last piece of plywood covering the window of the lifeguard headquarters at Suffolk Avenue and the beach, in Ventnor, as his grandson, Jake Karp, 5 of the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township, scans the horizon with binoculars. Ventnor lifeguards begin preparations to get their HQ, stations, stands and boats ready for the first summer season after Sandy. Tuesday, April, 2, 2013( Press of Atlantic City/ Danny Drake)
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.