Robert Nelson was born on Feb. 6, 1927 in San Diego. He grew up in Ocean Beach and Point Loma and graduated from Point Loma High.
In 1949, he became a lifeguard for the county of San Diego and became a city lifeguard in 1953. Nelson served
10 years as a lifeguard lieutenant and was appointed port captain of Mission Bay in May of 1968. He retired from the city in 1976.
Capt. Nelson was instrumental in overseeing the complex operation in keeping Mission Bay — a nationally famous water playground — safe and orderly.
He worked to acquire the new 36-foot Lifeguard Rescue Boat, ALERT, powered by twin 280 horse engines and with firefighting and pumping capability, which he skippered.
Nelson managed both the Harbor Patrol lifeguards (now known as the Lifeguard Service Boating Safety Unit), the beach lifeguards on Mission Bay, lifeguard communications and maintenance of navigational buoys and aquatic safety equipment.
Over the years as aquatic activity grew on Mission Bay, Capt. Nelson strived for more boating safety education and had one terse bit of advice for boat owners: “Follow all safety precautions of the Coast Guard.”
Robert enjoyed surfing, fishing, swimming, handball, tennis and an occasional racquet ball game. He received many awards and trophies and was a member of the San Diego Rowing Club.
He is survived by his wife, Roberta J. Nelson; daughter Teresa; and grandchildren James Jr., Joseph and Alexander and nephew Eric.
A surfer and lifeguard paddle out memorial will be held Nov. 16 at 1:30 p.m. at Ocean Beach at the foot of Santa Monica Avenue.
Visit beardsleymitchell.com for updates on place and time.