Bench memorializes Encinitas junior lifeguard

After John Mossy, 22, died in 2011, his family and friends found a number of ways to commemorate his life: naming their sports teams "The Mossy Posse," starting an organization to feed the homeless and participating in various charities aimed at youth and mental health services.

And now, people from all over can remember John at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, where his parents and the Mossy Posse unveiled a tribute bench outside the new lifeguard tower in John's honor on March 3.

John's mother, Sandy Mossy, said she wants the bench to be a place of comfort for anyone who might be suffering from loneliness or struggling. John, a junior lifeguard with Encinitas' Marine Safety Division, committed suicide in 2011.

"[The bench is] a reminder to look up and see the beauty of God’s creation; the waves, the sea shells, butterflies... to find some peace, hope, faith and to know that there is a brighter future," said Sandy, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe with her husband and John's father, Peter. "Life is difficult, so we want all to remember to share love and kindness wherever we go as we never know what someone is going through."

Sandy remembered John as a "popular leader" in school who had many friends and competed on Santa Fe Christian Schools' lacrosse and wrestling teams.

She noted the Mossy Posse tag started in middle school, when John was regularly seen with friends around him. His peers have since carried on the group nickname to a men's softball league and fantasy football league.

"Since John’s suicide has absolutely devastated them, they continue to have his back by reaching out to others in their community in his honor," Sandy said. "Taylor Gilbert, Ben Pruter and Danny Breihan started an organization in San Francisco to help feed the homeless. Nick Witzman became a Big Brother to a youth in need. Peter Fredericks credits John for his reason to become a doctor. Mario Kurn, Justin Witzman, Sharon Covitt and others walk in NAMI walks for the mentally ill in John’s memory."

John's parents began working on the project nine months ago with Lifeguard Captain Larry Giles, architect Stephen Dalton and Del Mar artist Betsy Schulz.

Schulz, who has been creating public art throughout San Diego for nearly two decades, said she felt an immediate connection to the Mossys because she lost her father to suicide.

"I knew right away, working with Sandy would be a good way for Sandy and I to work through some of our grief through creating this piece," Schulz said. "I hope others can enjoy it and appreciate life while sitting on it at such a beautiful location."

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