Charlie Johnson was a local Vietnam War Veteran and lifeguard who tragically lost his life in combat. Jeni Lupinski contacted Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews and me to see if we could track down a plaque that was dedicated in his memory. The plaque was attached to a lifeguard stand several years ago. With guidance from Lupinski, Mathews found the plaque, got permission from the city to have the plaque moved, and thanks to two Morgan Park maintenance men, the plaque was relocated from an old dilapidated stand that is no longer in use, to one of the newer ones currently being used on the Morgan Park Beach. The newer stand is not only used by the lifeguards every day but it also faces our beautiful Hempstead Harbor.
In reaching out to a few former lifeguards and to a classmate of Johnson’s, Richard Bandel, I found out that Johnson graduated from Glen Cove high school in 1959, he was a lifeguard during the summers and he went to Kansas to attend Emporia College. He entered the army from Hutchinson, Kansas, not Glen Cove, which is why I could not locate him in the past on the wall in D.C. Searching through 22 Charles Johnsons in an online index, I found him. His photo has been identified by three people who say it is definitely him. He was killed on May 3, 1967.
Sometime after Johnson’s death, Stanley “Jasper” Dzakonski, who became a lifeguard after him, had a plaque created in his honor. Having heard stories about Johnson, Dzakonski thought a plaque on one of the lifeguard stands overlooking the harbor would be an appropriate tribute. Fellow lifeguards, Jay Johnson (no relation to Charlie) and Arthur Bergman, along with Richard Bandel, helped me substantiate all of the information noted here.
Thank you to the Mayor’s Office, to the Mayor, to the Parks and Recreation Staff and to Councilman Stevenson-Mathews for helping relocate the plaque. Thank you to Jeni Lupenski for bringing this to my attention and to the attention of Gaitley. Thank you to Stanley Dzakonski for creating the original plaque and to all noted here for their help. Most importantly, thank you to Charlie Johnson for making the ultimate sacrifice.