Andy Romano's life has taken him from the beaches of Ormond Beach to a C-47 troop transport plane during WWII and back again. Soon, there will be a public park bearing his name.
BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
The man they call Mr. Beach, Andy Romano sits in the garage of his beachside home, which he built in 1960, smoking a cigar and watching a replay of the Florida State-North Carolina State game.
He already knows the outcome, but says he’s a University of Florida man, so he doesn’t mind watching, again as the Seminoles get upset.
Romano was the first lifeguard captain in Ormond Beach, and was given his nickname by his fellow lifeguards. He also opened the first concessions stand on the beach.
The city honored him in 2011 by naming a new beachfront park after him.
The Andy Romano Beachfront Park is set to open early 2013, named for the man who has given so much to the city and the beaches.
Romano attended UF, where he was in the the ROTC program, before volunteering for WWII and winding up as a radio operator on a C-47 troop transport plane.
“When we went over combat (areas), the crew chief and I had — under his seat and my seat — we had a plate, a bullet proof plate,” Romano said. “We used to sit on that thing, huddled, because a C-47 comes in at 200 feet. And the biggest problem we had was ground fire. We’d come back sometimes and the tail would look like Swiss cheese.”
Romano’s plane dropped troops into Bastogne and in the south of France, in a town he can’t remember the name of anymore.
“Man, I tell you, it looked like the Fourth of July down there,” he said when talking about Bastogne.
After WWII, Romano remained in the reserves while he went back to school. He later re-enlisted for the Korean War.
“When I came back from the service, I said, ‘Well, I’m going to go to a coed school. I’m not going to go back to a guys school,’” he said. “So I went to Stetson (University).”
When he was done at Stetson, Romano returned to Ormond Beach and was a teacher and then a principal, spending more than 30 years in the school system.
Life on the beach
From the time he moved to Ormond Beach, with his parents in 1935, Romano said he was just drawn to the beaches. He even met his wife, Sharon, while he was working as a lifeguard.
“When I was a lifeguard, I would cruise up and down the beaches in Ormond,” Romano said. “And she came down here from, I think it was New Jersey, and she was down on the beach.
“Back then, as a lifeguard, you see an eligible female down there, you know, you kind of stop and talk for a little bit.”
Romano says he’s probably spent more time on the beaches than anyone, and remembers when he could lie down on A1A without the fear of being hit by a car.
His favorite spot on the beach is an old shipwreck.
“I’ve fished the hell out of that damn thing,” Romano said of the fishing spot that’s been covered for about two years. “I knew it like the back of my hand.”
His favorite fishing spot may be gone, but he’ll soon have a park of his own.