Meldon James Rhew died helping to save Betty Ann O’Connor from drowning, Westhampton Beach, New York, July 11, 1963. While frolicking in rough surf in the Atlantic Ocean with a surfboard, Betty Ann, 11, was carried seaward by a very strong undertow in the wake of four-foot breakers. She released the board but was unable to make any headway and called for help. Rhew, 53, insurance company vice-president, ran 40 feet and entered the surf, where a large breaker knocked him down. He swam 150 feet through breakers and swells to Betty Ann, who was in water 12 feet deep. Rhew was breathing heavily, and his face was contorted. He swam behind Betty Ann and pushed her four feet toward shore. He then swam to her and pushed her four feet farther. Having recovered some strength, Betty Ann began swimming shoreward, aided by breakers. Rhew submerged briefly, after which he made no further swimming efforts. Breakers carried Betty Ann to within 25 feet of the beach, from where a young woman aided her ashore. Only Rhew’s head then was visible as he drifted seaward. A man who had been a lifeguard swam 300 feet to Rhew, who was unconscious. The man obtained the surfboard drifting nearby and, holding Rhew on it, swam part way to shore. A young woman helped him to take Rhew to the beach. Rhew could not be revived.
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