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Ahn retires as a lifeguard after nearly five decades | News, Sports, Jobs


TR PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER Rick Ahn poses with his wife Nancy Brant Ahn during his retirement celebration at the YMCA-YWCA on Thursday morning. After nearly 50 years as an occasional lifeguard for various Y facilities, he has decided to retire and his colleagues and friends wish him the best as he goes.

Friends and acquaintances of longtime YMCA-YWCA lifeguard Rick Ahn flocked to the lobby of the Marshalltown Y facility Thursday morning to wish him well. After nearly five decades of on and off rescue, he finally decided to retire.

Ahn, who grew up in Albia, started in 1971, then in 1974 he started rescue for different YMCA-YWCA facilities. Either he worked at the Y part-time and taught part-time, or he worked full-time at the Y for the past 48 years.

Although Ahn didn’t spend his entire lifeguarding career at the Marshalltown Y, he said the facility holds a special place in his heart.

“I really believe in what the Y stands for,” Ahn said. “The YMCA was always meant to be a Christian organization, always. I’ve worked in YMCAs where the ‘C’ wasn’t respected as well as it should be, but the work that the YMCA (of Marshalltown) has done over the years – the ‘C’ is a big one part. It is a Christian organization in this establishment.

Ahn worked as a lifeguard for the Marshalltown Y from 1985 to 1992, and later returned to help with swimming lessons. In 2015, Shelley Lechnir, the YMCA-YWCA water sports director, told her she needed a lifeguard.

“I looked at her in her office and said, ‘Shelley, I’m 63 and no longer certified as a lifeguard,'” Ahn said. “With a firm but laughing face, she said, ‘Oh shut up Rick, you swim better than half of my lifeguards. Lifeguard course is next week. You’ll be a lifeguard in two weeks,” and that was seven years ago.

Lechnir has worked with Ahn since she started at the YMCA-YWCA about 13 years ago, and she had nothing but positive feedback to share.

“He’s one of the best lifeguards, you know, not only good at his job but also building those relationships with the members and getting to know them beyond the pool. He knew something about the whole world, and he went that extra mile to do it,” Lechnir said.

Lechnir noted Ahn’s dedication to her job and to each of the guests who walked through the front doors, and she said she always enjoyed the conversations they had over the years. All the good times they had had made it all the more difficult for her to see him hang up the whistle.

“It’s really hard (to see him go). We kind of knew the day would come. He wants to be with his grandkids and his mum more. So yeah, it’s really hard to see him go, and I know he will be truly missed by our members, just like us too as staff,” Lechnir said.

Tariq Martin, another former colleague of Ahn, was previously the assistant director of aquatics, but is now the superintendent of building and grounds while awaiting college graduation. As with Lechnir, working with Ahn has been a highlight of Martin’s career so far.

“He excites me when I see him every morning. I mean, as you can tell with everyone, he just builds relationships with everyone who comes in. If you’re a brand new swimmer or member, he’ll do whatever it takes to get your name and pretty much everything about you. . He’s just a great guy,” Martin said. “He is the essence of the YMCA and what it stands for.”

Martin was sad to see him go, but he was sure he would still see Ahn from time to time. Ahn felt the same way about his Y colleagues and was glad he got to work with them.

Over the years, Ahn has taught swimming at the Y and other facilities, and he says training memories for the YMCA/YWCA are among his favorites.

“I coached swimming in high school and had some great swimmers in high school. Don’t get me wrong, but my favorite swim coach was with the YMCA. The little ones all the way up I had – at one point in Oskaloosa – I had 35-year-olds swimming on the open division team,” he said.

As he closes one chapter of his life, Ahn opens another, and his wife, Nancy Brant Ahn, said she looks forward to having him home more often and enjoying their retirement together.

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Contact Susanna Meyer

at 641-753-6611 or

smeyer@timesrepublican.com



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