By Phil Jacobs
Joe Theobald and his daughter Diana were in his vehicle when the call came across the radio. First responders were at the beach and 128th Street, June 3, desperately searching the ocean for a missing young man.
As we learned that same day, the news was tragic as the 18-year-old Montgomery County resident had died.
Theobald, Ocean City’s Emergency Services Director, and Diana, an Ocean City Beach Patrol member, quickly got to the scene and started to help where they could. Diana stayed with the young man’s two friends, who were both rescued by OCBP.
It was a less hectic Tuesday morning, and in his office Theobald was asked a question that had nothing to do with emergency response and safety. He is the father of three daughters, and with Father’s Day on Sunday, the topic was on being a good dad.
Diana, 20, has been an OCBP member for five summers. Her dad is technically her boss, since the department falls under the Department of Emergency Services. That she was with her dad on an emergency response is a beautiful continuation of their lives. Goodness knows how many times she sat in the back seat of his car on the way to school or a birthday party. Perhaps when she was a bit older, she and her dad were driving to a game she was playing in. He would even teach her drive, and now the two were headed to an emergency they would be working on not as dad and daughter, but as first responders.
“My dad is willing to do absolutely anything for us,” said Diana, who is going to begin the University of Maryland School of Nursing in late summer. She wants to work in trauma, emergency medicine or pediatric oncology.
Diana said her dad is still lovingly fulfilling the role.
“He’s willing to drive me to work sometimes because the parking stinks,” she said.
It was after she finished a day on Beach Patrol that her dad picked her up, and the two heard the 911 dispatches about the drowning.
“He insists on making me lunches and giving me snacks. Sometimes he gives me 10 different snacks. Everyone at working is always joking with me about it.”
Diana has two older sisters: Kimberly, 28, who is the mother of a two-year-old, with one on the way, making her dad a grandfather; and Alyson, 26, who works for Goldman Sachs in Washington D.C.
He and his wife Carol have been married for 32 years.
“Raising children is an unknown you have to be prepared for,” he said. “It’s a journey, and I think being a parent is the most important job a person can have, “My wife and I are blessed to have three good, loving children. I think that if you raised your children to good adults, then you’ve done your job as a parent right.”
Theobald had a good idea of what it would be like as the oldest of six siblings, including two sisters.
“I learned how to take care of girls,” he said. “I had the choice to work afternoons and evenings so that at times I could stay home with the kids. My wife and I always thought it was most important to be there for them. For us, the kids are everything.”
Now, include Keira, 2, who calls her grandfather, “Pop.”
He added that he loves the “ethic he sees with his daughters.
“They all have the values needed to succeed as good adults,” he said. “I’m not concerned that they won’t make the right decisions, because they always do. Yet they also know that life is full of hard knocks, and isn’t always perfect.
“There is no script to follow to raise children,” he added. “Teach them to be kind and to be considerate to others. There’s no magic to that.”
He said that those days when his girls were little and became women all happened in a “blink of an eye.”
“I can still see them as toddlers,” he said. “But I keep saying that my wife and I did the right thing, because we have such wonderful, caring daughters. And that’s the way life is supposed to be.”
The best part perhaps now. He talks to his daughters at least twice a day.
They call him.
“He’s a very generous guy, and he’ll anything for everyone,” said Diana.
Because he loves his girls.