Memorial ‘Paddle Out’ for Jon Harrison a Fitting Tribute to Late LBTBP Chief

Sep 05, 2018
Courtesy of: Long Beach Township Beach Patrol On Sunday, Sept. 2, the Long Beach Township Beach Patrol honored late Chief Jon Harrison, shown here with some young beachgoers, in a memorial service during which his ashes were placed in the Atlantic Ocean in tribute to his life of service.

Dana Harrison and her son, Jeremy, walked over the dune at 94th Street in Beach Haven Crest on Sept. 2 and were blown away. In front of them were hundreds of individuals whose lives had been touched by her husband, Jon, as they gathered to remember his life of compassion, tenacity and service.

“It’s overwhelming and wonderful,” said Dana, the late Long Beach Township Beach Patrol chief’s wife of 33 years, as a hundred or so people paddled offshore about 250 yards to place a wreath in the Atlantic and deliver his ashes to the ocean he loved. “I think Jon is watching all this and is very happy to know how many people cared about him.”

Following a battle against cancer, Jon Harrison passed away in March. But his spirit and legacy live on through the Long Beach Township Beach Patrol, which helped organize Sunday’s memorial service alongside family friends Aimee Lynn Curry and Anne Beth Huy. A block party on 94th Street followed the service.

“We’ve known Jonny our whole lives,” said Curry, in reference to her and her sister, who were neighbors of the Harrisons when they owned a home on 94th Street. “He meant so much to this community. He meant the world to us. We now have children who are lifeguards because of him. It was a tough summer without him, but this is a great celebration of a wonderful man.”

With the sun dipping lower in the sky to the west shortly after 6 p.m., LBTBP officer Ryan Williams addressed the crowd in attendance, describing Harrison as a man “possessing qualities you don’t come across every day.”

“Jon was a leader,” Williams said. “There is something so intricately beautiful about the quality of wanting to serve others. Being a public servant is a job that doesn’t get a lot of credit or a lot of thanks, but Jon never did it for that, ever. However, I remember a lot of people coming up to him and thanking him. Jon is a legend on this Island.”

Williams acknowledged Dana and Jeremy Harrison, his wife, Kaitlin, and son, Ryder, as well as Jon’s brother, Jeff, who attended with his wife, Ellen, and thanked them for the opportunity to “borrow Jon for a lot longer than we deserved.”

Following a short prayer by Sister Ann O’Connell – also a former neighbor of Harrison’s – several LBTBP lifeguards led a precession of paddlers behind a pair of LBTBP rowers who brought the wreath out to a marker buoy. Current chief Patrick Craig brought Jeremy Harrison out to the gathering via personal watercraft, and the service continued in the water, where Jon Harrison’s ashes were given to the Atlantic as the paddlers circled around them.

“All these people were here for him, and I could feel his presence out there,” Jeremy said after returning to the beach. “It’s a beautiful thing to see all these people here for this and show their appreciation for my dad. There’s lots of energy and love here tonight, and our family is grateful for all who were here.”

O’Connell, who had known Jon Harrison for most of his 60 years, said he had always displayed a kindness and compassion for others, “even as a little boy.”

“He would look out for people outside the circle, so he always saw those who were in need of help,” she said. “The fact he became a lifeguard is a beautiful reflection of the person he was. I was honored to know him.”

Dana Harrison said Jon’s “heart was always here, even though he came out West and married me.” Jon and Dana lived in Tucson, Ariz., where he served as a firefighter and EMT with the Tucson Fire Department.

“I know this Island was very special to him,” she said. “He left us in March, but I immediately knew I had to bring him back to his home. Jon was either here, wishing he was here, or working out in preparation to be here. He loved everything about the beach patrol and the Island. Now he’s back.”

— David Biggy

Long Beach Township Beach Patrol officer Ryan Williams, right, introduces Jon Harrison's family (from left): his wife, Dana Harrison, son Jeremy, his wife Kaitlin and son Ryder, and brother Jeff. (Photo by: David Biggy)
(Photo by: David Biggy)
(Photo by: David Biggy)
(Photo by: David Biggy)
His father's ashes in hand, Jeremy Harrison gets set to deliver them to the ocean Jon Harrison loved. (Photo by: David Biggy)
(Courtesy of: Sam and Manny Ambar/LBTBP)
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