Jeremy Poston Owens
August 11, 1978 - November 16, 2020
BY J ENNY YAR BOROUGH
At the stroke of midnight each New Year’s Eve, lights flash,
a shiny ball drops and horns blare, signifying a change — but
nothing is really different except the time. For the world to
change, it takes more than turning a calendar page. It requires
That’s what Jeremy Owens, Wrightsville Beach Fire Depart-ment
and Ocean Rescue captain, dedicated his life to every day.
He was a keeper of the sea.
Like any true humanitarian and like the Headless Horse-man
he played in the TV production of Sleepy Hollow, he never
showed his face to claim the glory. Giving people more time —
whether saving them from a rip current or house fire — was his
call of duty, not seeking the limelight.
“His demeanor is the true, quiet confidence,” Dave Baker,
Ocean Rescue director, says. “He has nothing to prove.”
WBM january 2021
Friends and family pay tribute to
legendary Wrightsville Beach lifeguard
and firefighter Jeremy Owens
IT was a beautiful weekend in 2010. The sky was blue,
the sun was shining. But there was a hurricane offshore.
It wasn’t visible to the eye but underneath the surface a
trough was forming like two rivers coming together. The
treacherous rip current pulled 21 swimmers out to sea.
“It looked like a hornet’s nest of bodies and people screaming,”
Jeremy was on the jet ski. Ocean Rescue lieutenant, para-medic
and firefighter Sam Proffitt (also Jeremy’s best friend)
was on the radio and Baker was in the truck pulling lifeguards
from stands. The guards swam to the outskirts of the rip and
Jeremy, using sheer muscle and determination, grabbed those
21 swimmers one by one, spinning them off to the nearest
guard who brought them back to shore.
“Two hundred and twelve people rescued. One day, with
one rip pulling 21. No loss of life,” says Baker.
Superhero is a word commonly used to describe Jeremy,
and while he wasn’t one to boast he did let it be known by the
age of 4, when he was all decked out in a Superman costume
roaming the aisles of the local grocery store with his mom,
Debbie Owens, that he was born to save lives.
She remembers a school race when he was in third grade. A
classmate fell. Jeremy no longer cared about competing. He ran
back, helped the boy up, and they finished in last place together.
Even as a child he was conscientious and kind. As a newborn
his big, brown eyes followed every movement in the room.
“He was paying attention like an old soul from the time he
came in,” Debbie says.
Jeremy was a true waterman — a sailor, a surfer, a swimmer,
a diver, a lifeguard. Born to parents who met on Wrightsville
Beach and also both worked as lifeguards, he was a big brother
not only to his two siblings but to the entire town.
He started the Junior Lifeguard program, developed tech-niques
and protocols that saved lives, broke the Fireman’s Chal-lenge
record he still holds, was instrumental in receiving the
U.S. Lifeguard Association’s national award for commitment