Via Hakai Magazine, an article by Tom Hawthorn: The Guardian Angel of Swimming Children. Excerpt:
At precisely 10:40 a.m. on February 7, 1922, work stopped in every classroom in every public school in Vancouver, British Columbia. The day’s lessons were interrupted so that teachers could expound on the heroic deeds of Joe Fortes, who at that moment was being buried in one of the grandest public farewell ceremonies the city had ever held.
The children needed little reminder about Fortes, the longtime lifeguard and swimming instructor at English Bay, a sandy beach mere steps from the growing metropolis. Indeed, some of the older pupils even owed him their lives.
Named Seraphim at birth after the highest rank of angels, Fortes left his home island of Trinidad as a teenager to work as a deckhand aboard a brigantine carrying sugar. After living in Liverpool, England, for a few years, he signed on as a crewman aboard a merchant vessel bound for Vancouver Island. On the way there, the 58-meter boat struck a rock and barely limped into Vancouver, which at the time was a rough mill town cut out of the coastal rainforest along Burrard Inlet.
With his ship undergoing repairs, Fortes worked odd jobs before becoming a bootblack at a waterfront hotel in Vancouver. He enjoyed life in the fledgling port and never returned to sea.