POLICE LIFEGUARD CALVIN "SPADE" BURNS
SDPD 09/17/1936 - PENDING
06/15/1897 - 10/30/1988
Calvin "Spade" Burns, 91, an Ocean Beach native who became a champion swimmer and an organizer of the city lifeguard system, died Sunday in Sharp Cabrillo Hospital following a heart attack.
It was at the age of 9, when the Indians were still coming to Ocean Beach to harvest mussels, that Mr. Burns seriously began working toward becoming a championship swimmer, his son, Calvin Burns Jr., said.
He won dozens of trophies in local and regional swimming contests, and from the 1920s to the early 1930s he assisted many local swimmers, including Florence Chadwick, his son said.
Chadwick, who went on to gain fame by her conquests of the English Channel and in other rough-water swims, said that Mr. Burns coached her for several months in 1932.
As a teen-ager, Mr. Burns joined the San Diego Rowing Club and in 1917 Hotel del Coronado hired him as lifeguard. In 1923, he was hired as Ocean Beach supervising lifeguard, and he began organizing lifeguard service for other city beaches.
In the 1960s, his boat sank and he attempted to swim to shore while three crew members clung to a floating bait box. Eight hours later, he reached Magdalena Bay in Baja California. He found help and returned to the site of the sinking, but no trace of the crew members was found.
He retired and devoted his time to swimming and attending swimming events. Until 10 years ago, he frequently served as a judge at swimming meets.
He was active in Knights of Columbus.
Survivors include his wife, Ellen, of Ocean Beach; a daughter and son, Barbara Vargas of Chula Vista and Calvin Burns Jr. of Clairemont; five grandchildren and one great-grandson.
A memorial service will be held 9 a.m. Sunday in the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Ocean Beach. He was a longtime member of the church. Cremation was planned, with ashes to be scattered at sea.