Tom Oves, Ocean City Icon, Dies at 87

Tom Oves, Ocean City Icon, Dies at 87

Tom Oves is joined by Ocean City Beach Patrol lifeguard grandsons AJ, Dustin, John and Matt Oves for a family portrait on the beach in 2021. (Photos courtesy of the Oves family)


Ocean City and much of South Jersey are mourning the loss of one of their leading lights.

Tom Oves – a leader in service to people, education, civic groups, businesses and sports – passed away on Feb. 12, following several years of battling health issues. He was 87.

Though an iconic figure to many Ocean City locals and visitors, it was his human touch that always shone through, friends and family members said.

“He had a lot of everyday wisdom in the way he conducted himself and related to others,” said Rick Brown, who taught and coached with Oves during a 27-year career at Wildwood High School.

“Tom was calm and cool in situations others would look at as stressful. But what stood out to me was his ability to put himself in other people’s shoes. He had a soft spot for those who were less fortunate than himself and did whatever he could to help them,” Brown added.

During his time at Wildwood, Oves taught physical education, driver education and coached football before retiring in the mid-1980s.

In talking to Brown, family members, friends and associates of Oves, certain phrases were repeated: “great friend,” “a man of compassion,” “humorous,” “mentor” and “problem-solver” are but a few.

Tom Oves and his wife, Anne, enjoy a light moment on the Boardwalk in an undated photo.

To many, Oves was best known as co-owner and co-founder with his wife, Anne, of Oves Restaurant and Bicycle Rentals, in 1968. It started out with bike rentals at the Delaware Hotel at Park Place and the Boardwalk, today the site of the Gardens Plaza condominium. He moved the business to its present location at Fourth and the Boardwalk in the early 1970s.

There, master carpenter Craig Mensinger took over operations of the bike lot, and built and expanded the current restaurant building and worked with Oves for the businesses’ run of 53 years so far.

“I consider Tom a mentor and more than a friend,” said Mensinger, who was a longtime head coach of the Ocean City High baseball program. “His style of leadership was to teach you little by little until you learned the job. If you had a different way of doing something he would say, ‘Do it the way you think works best.’ That is one of things that made him such a good leader.”

Over the years, the restaurant evolved from a breakfast joint to breakfast and lunch and finally a full-service seasonal restaurant business including dinners. Family members said Oves was extremely proud that his grandchildren had become active in developing the restaurant to the point of offering full-course dinners.

Oves was much more than a successful businessman. A 1951 Ocean City High School graduate and superb athlete, he went on to the University of Delaware, where he tried out for football and was awarded a scholarship by longtime coach Tubby Raymond. He also lettered in wrestling and track and field for the Blue Hens.

“He didn’t aim to be a college student, but his brother Ralph and buddies Fenton and John Carey coaxed him to try,” a friend said. “Obviously, that worked out pretty well for Tom and for the university.”

During his years on the Delaware campus, Oves took part in more than football. He was in the Army ROTC program, joined a fraternity and played intramural basketball. He went on to join the U.S. Army and achieve the rank of second lieutenant.

Danny, Tom and Anne Oves with their grandchildren during Christmas 2021.

In 1962, Tom and Anne, his spouse of 60 years, started a family. The union produced four sons: the late Tom Oves Jr. (wife Mary), Christopher (wife Tobi), Alexander (wife Donna), and Daniel.

Oves is survived by eight grandchildren. They are Dustin, John, AJ, Tommy, Matt, Brett, Grace and Brady. He is also survived by sister Mildred. Many nieces, nephews, great nephews and nieces round out the extended family.

“He was a great father-in-law,” Donna Oves said. “When Alex and I became serious, it was summertime, so he was very busy, yet he welcomed me warmly into the family. I suppose (joining such a large family) could’ve been overwhelming, but it never was. It was just the opposite.”

Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian noted of Oves, “With Tom, it began with his love of family and went from there. The lifeguards, his businesses and children’s activities represented some of the best aspects of family life. We keep losing so many great gentlemen of that generation. It’s a big loss. But I know his family will keep that legacy going.”

For 20 years in his younger days, Tom Oves was an Ocean City Beach Patrol lifeguard, reaching the rank of lieutenant and becoming a champion singles and doubles rower.

“I knew of Tom Oves before I even met him,” said brother-in-law Charlie Bowman. “When Tom asked me to row with him, I jumped in the boat and the rest is history.”

This is partly true because of the many doubles rowing championships Oves and Bowman would win over the years, but it is mainly true because Charlie married Anne’s twin sister Beth.

“Our lives spanned 65 years together,” Bowman said.

Tom Oves, seated in front, was a champion singles and doubles rower when he was a lifeguard with the Ocean City Beach Patrol.

Ocean City Beach Patrol Hall of Fame founder Fred Miller called Oves “the dominant rower in South Jersey.”

“When we started the Hall of Fame, Tom was the first inductee. Tom was a great rower, a great guard and an even better person,” Miller recalled.

Miller said his own first year on the OCBP was in 1965, the summer after Tom’s final year.

“In that situation you might think that Tom had enough and would withdraw from things. Instead, he helped me out with his knowledge of the job and he remained a big supporter of the Beach Patrol for the rest of his life,” Miller said.

Oves followed his dad as a lifeguard. Reuben Oves was an original member from 1910 until 1917. Grandsons Dustin, John, AJ and Matthew made it a three-generation tradition.

Beth Bowman said she and Anne Oves were “blessed to live in Ocean City and raise our families together, which created a lot of wonderful memories for all of us. It is amazing what Tom accomplished in his life.”

Beth, who like most members of the immediate and extended family worked for a time at the restaurant, called the job “always hard work, but Tom made it fun. Tom always made time to talk and have a cup of coffee with you. Tom loved people, and people loved him.”

Toms Oves is surrounded by his family for a group photo in front of his Ocean City restaurant.

The Oves family had its share of sorrowful moments such as Tom Jr.’s death and the passing of Tom and Anne’s infant daughter Anne Marie. They never allowed such events to stop them or even slow them down, friends remembered.

“He was a big personality,” said Craig Mowers, a longtime professional caregiver for Daniel Oves, who lives with a disability. “Mr. Oves was well-liked and well-respected. He was very warm and funny. I am privileged to work with Daniel, and fortunate to have developed a strong relationship with Mr. Oves. Daniel really looked up to him, as did everyone who came into contact with him.”

Services for Thomas Oves:


10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 17

St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, 501 East 8th St.

Funeral Service:

12 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 17

St. Peter’s United Methodist Church

Final Resting Place:

1 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 17

Holy Cross Cemetery, Harding Highway, Mays Landing

Tom Oves was the first inductee in the Ocean City Beach Patrol Hall of Fame.