by Elizabeth Harrison
I'm from a family of four girls, and all three of my sisters and myself had the pleasure of working with Zach at Cheverly Pool. Tall, eccentric, with a head full of hair (and occasionally sideburns and/or muttonchops), Zach was always a joy to be around, on and off the clock.
I still remember vividly the day I reconnected with Zach in June of 2014. It had been awhile, as the last time I'd seen him had probably been four years prior, during our swim team days. He was a rising junior, about to have his 17th birthday, and was getting ready to go on a trip to Mexico to do community service work.
It was his first day on the job, and as it was my first summer working there as well, I only had a couple weeks of experience on him. On one of our breaks we went to the five feet to swim and get some much needed relief from the sweltering, humid heat. We talked and talked for at least two hours, discussing high school, music, movies, everything under the sun (pun intended).
I saw his red Nalgene bottle and commented on the Vespoli sticker stuck on the side of the plastic. Curious, he asked how I knew what it was. I told him I rowed crew my freshman and sophomore years of high school, and he responded immediately and excitedly.
Z: No way! I do crew too, but I kind of messed up my back so I can't row right now. Where'd you sit?
Me: Six seat! Well, depending on the rigging of the boat. Sometimes I'd sit 5, if it was starboard rigged. I'm a port, so--
Z: Whaaaaat! I'm a port too, and six seat!
Then, at the same time, we both said "steam engine," laughing. It was such a funny coincidence that we were both six seat ports! We talked about being the "strongest" in the boat, compared split times, and discussed that regatta scene in The Social Network.
We quickly bonded over how much we loved the sport, the way it was team-oriented... how much you had to rely on your peers to make it work. It was clear from the way he spoke about them that he deeply loved his teammates, and was heartbroken he wouldn't be able to row that fall-- not just because of his love for the sport, but because he felt like he was letting them down. From this first conversation with him, I could tell how much Zach loved people. Over the years as I got to know him better, I can say with certainty he was always working his hardest to push everyone around him to be the best version of themselves.
Over the course of that summer, we realized we had much in common, from being huge fans of musicians like Fleetwood Mac and Frank Ocean, to TV, like Breaking Bad and House of Cards. We passed the time as all lifeguards do, listening to music, talking, swimming, etc., and got to learn the best techniques for doing a can opener from Alexis, Zach's self-professed favorite lifeguard/operator.
He loved splashing the little kids who would wait desperately on the side of the pool by the diving boards, chanting "Splash us! Splash us! Splash us!" Being as tall as he was, they loved when "Lifeguard Zach" would make an appearance on the high dive... he practically guaranteed an incoming tsunami. I remember one time he gave in to their requests to do a belly flop off the HIGH DIVE (who does that?!), showcasing his utter selflessness. And, I'll note, he was one of the few people whose splash could reach the lifeguards all the way in the chair.
That was just one of the ways Zach's beautiful personhood lent itself to him being a great coworker. He was extremely dedicated to helping people, even in the smallest of ways, at the pool. Bandaid needed? Zach got it. Swim test? No worries, Zach's on it.
One of the things that made lifeguarding so great was working with people you genuinely liked talking to-- since most of the job was sitting at the guard table, you had to like your coworkers or you were basically doomed. I always felt happy when I saw Zach's name on the schedule because I knew the day would be good. You knew he'd show up on time, would have a fun conversation at the table, maybe a music related debate, definitely a laugh.
He also loved DJing the guard stand for us, which was great for me because we had similar taste in music... minus the metal. I remember working with him the day after Frank Ocean's newest album Blonde had just been released, following an agonizing four year wait. We were all psyched to finally hear it, and Zach was the operator that day and hooked it up to the speakers.
"Frank's album finally came out!" he'd said. "I've been waiting so long for this, oh my god. Well, I guess we've all been waiting so long for it."
It was small, but I remember that so well. "I guess we've all been waiting for it," he said to correct himself. Thinking back on it, that showed me Zach's love for other people, the way he viewed people as a team. That together we're stronger than we are individually. I might be grasping at straws here, but given his dedication to helping people, and the things he gravitated towards-- community service, crew, lifeguarding-- I don't think it's that big a leap to make. He was so excited for all of us working that day to finally hear the album, together. And I'm so glad we got to, because it was beautiful.
I hope these anecdotes and pictures can help you to visualize what some of those 11 am - 9 pmhour long days at the pool looked like for Zach. I'm so grateful to have known him and worked with him for as long as I did. Cheverly Pool will always remind me of his kind, giving spirit, and I'll always cherish the memories I had with him there.