NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – The Neptune Beach community is remembering the first black lifeguard to serve its area.
Larry Hobbs, who was described as a gentle giant, died from bladder cancer, and the community is taking the loss hard because of how much Hobbs is remembered for saving lives.
Bill Holden, who hired Hobbs upon a recommendation from a friend of Hobbs, is in disbelief.
"He said, 'I have a friend. His name is Larry Hobbs and he's an African American, but he's a good guy and would you consider hiring him,'" Holden said. "At that point and time we had never had an African American lifeguard in Neptune Beach, and I said, 'I don't have a problem with that.'"
"Holden said Hobbs completed his certifications and became a lifeguard about 30 years ago.
A strong, loving man, who always wore a smile, friends said he lost a courageous five-year battle to bladder cancer Saturday while surrounded by loved ones.
Holden even recalls a historical Memorial Day on American Beach when Hobbs took action as they saved at least 50 people.
"He always was the one that grabbed them, pulled them through the rough surf, got them to shore brought them to be attended to and he was a hero," he said.
Holden said Hobbs probably saved a handful or so people from the rushing the water during his career, but most importantly it’s the legacy he’s leaving behind.
"I would say he probably saved five or six, but the lives he touched were uncountable because he was always there," Holden said.
The family has set a GoFundMe account to help pay funeral expenses.
"It's unfortunate that the more you need life insurance due to an illness, the harder it is to obtain," reads the appear for help. "The greater risk you pose to insurers, the less likely they will insure you. We ask that friends and family come together so we can take care of Larry's final expenses and give Larry a beautiful ceremony that he deserves."