Saugerties Village officials dedicate village beach to two longtime swim instructors

Saugerties Village Mayor Bill Murphy cheers after he helped unveil a new sign dedicating the village beach to the late Ann Bogert and June Jasienowski, two longtime swim instructors at the beach who taught countless Saugerties residents how to swim. (Photos by Brian Hubert)

Saugerties Village officials dedicated the village beach to two longtime swim instructors — June Jasienowski, who was on hand for the ceremony and the late Ann Bogert.

Members of both families and friends of the two families joined Village Mayor Bill Murphy last Friday as he unveiled a large new sign for the beach that notes the beach is dedicated to Bogert and Jasienowski. Members of both families spoke, along with John Spears, a longtime Saugerties High School history teacher who spent more than 13 summers working as a lifeguard at the beach

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June Jasienowski said she was overwhelmed with emotion as she had made it her life mission to teach children swimming after she lost a young child in a drowning accident.

“I wanted to keep others away from that situation the best as I could,” she said. She estimated that between herself and Bogert, they taught as many as 2,000 kids to swim over careers that spanned 35 years.

Cheryl Jasienowski recalled how her mother taught the younger kids, while Bogert would teach older kids swimming techniques like breaststroke and backstroke. She also recalled how the two families became close through the years down at the beach together.

Cheryl’s brother Michael recalled how he spent a lot of his childhood there while his mom worked towards making sure there were no kids who didn’t know how to swim.

Steve Bogert said his late mother taught half of Saugerties to swim while Jasienowski taught the other half. “We all grew up here, we all learned how to swim here,” he said. “Actually, I think someone threw me in the pool at the YMCA when I was about four years old and said ‘sink or swim’.”

Cheryl and June Jasienowski share an old family photo showing Ann Bogert on the left and June on the right at the beach while they were teaching swimming lessons.

He recalled there being a lot of stories told around bologna sandwiches there. The families brought bologna sandwiches for anyone interested in partaking. “I wish mom was here, that’s all I can say,” Bogert said.

Spears recalled his time working as a lifeguard and him yelling at them to stop throwing sand, stop running on the docks or how Marco Polo drove him nuts.

“I’d stop the kids and say here’s the rule at the beach — you can’t play Marco Polo until you tell me who Marco Polo is,” the longtime history teacher said. He admitted sometimes kids would run home or ask around for the answer so they could play their favorite childhood swimming game.

He recalled how it was 1974 and he was 16 and just wanted to play and had no interest in working, but then two lifelong friends told him to join them as lifeguards. “Who doesn’t want to be a lifeguard,” he said. “So I went to the Saugerties town office and filled out the application.”

He got hired, but there was a hitch because he didn’t have any water safety instruction. Bogert and Jasienowski soon took care of that. “They taught me a lot more than I ever thought I’d know. It was great. I was a lifeguard.”

Murphy confessed he wasn’t among the students who learned to swim at the village beach. But that doesn’t mean Bogert and Jasienowski didn’t try when he was a child.

“I was eleven years old,” Murphy recalled. “My father grew up at the bottom of West Bridge Street and I never wanted to learn how to swim.”

He said he was probably playing homerun derby at the park with childhood friends when he came home and his father said we’re going to the beach for swimming lessons. “I just got a pool, and you’re going to want to know how to swim,” he said.

Murphy said either June or Ann brought him out in the water to the first float and they told him to jump and go to the other float.

“I panicked, they pulled me back out and my father swam out and said he’d never bring me back here again. And to this day, I’m 55-year-old and I can’t swim,” the mayor said as the crowd chanted that they were going to take him out and teach him at that moment.