Joseph A. Pecoraro, Supervisor of Pool & Beaches
Chicago Park District
2002 Paragon Award / Aquatic Safety
Joe Pecoraro is to Chicago’s public swimming facilities what Robert Moses was to New York City’s Recreation Department. For almost 30 years, he has been general supervisor of the Chicago Park District’s 31 beaches and 90 pools. He oversees the District’s swimming, water polo and lifeguard programs and first aid, water rescue and ice-rescue instruction. If it’s a public facility in Chicago and you can swim in it, it’s Joe’s responsibility.
In 1949, he took a summer job as a lifeguard at North Avenue Beach on Lake Michigan and never left except for a two-year stint in the U.S. Army Field Artillery where he taught swimming to the First Calvary Division in Tokyo. He swam the backstroke on the Schurz High School and DePaul University swim teams before joining the Chicago Park District where he was swimming instructor for people with disabilities, the lifeguard school and water safety programs. In 1974, he became manager for all of Chicago’s beaches and pools, overseeing swimming instruction, scuba instruction, lifeguard recruitment and training, and water safety instruction. He was president of the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) (1983-1991) and continues on its Board of Directors. He travels constantly to public health and safety conferences and among other organizations is a member of Lifesaving Associations of the United States, Ireland, Australia, Germany and F.I.S. (Federational International au Sauvetage). He has authored Chicago’s “Lifeguard Manual” and “Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Manual”, the “New American Red Cross Lifeguard Manual”, and Guidelines for “Establishing Open Water Beach Standards” and “Open Water Lifeguard Training.”
About 24 million people visit Chicago’s beaches and pools each year. Joe has become a legend to all of them.