The diver’s body that was pulled out of a golf course pond Friday at Heritage Greens in Collier County has been identified.
The diver was identified as EMT Nicholas Wardein.
He was pursuing his hobby of retrieving golf balls during his off-duty hours when drowned unexpectedly.
His friends and family are mourning the loss of their loved one.
Wardein joined Lee County EMS in 2014. He was a skilled provider of prehospital medicine and was deeply committed to serving his community.
His family owns a bakery in North Naples called Epiphany. It is a gluten-free bakery that he built as his legacy of love to his wife.
Matt Loboda, a family friend said, “Nick crafted it all, designed it, conceptualize it, built it all. It’s fascinating. It’s all him, all for Ruth.”
Linda Albenga has been a family friend for years. She passed by the bakery Monday morning to pay her respects.
Albenga said Wardein would always come to her rescue.
“The man he is gold and god has the best angel up there right now. He is missed. He was just loving, giving, always there, and always thinking about other people before himself. Always, always willing to help. A heart of gold,” Albenga said.
Loboda opened up about his 25 years of friendship with Wardein.
“Life brings you wonderful people and sometimes you just know. Nick was that guy for me. He was a special soul,” Loboda said.
Loboda said the first thing that came to mind when he heard the news was that this couldn’t be true.
“No, this can’t be true. And then immediately I thought, I was blessed. In Proverbs, it says, ‘blessed is the man who has one good friend,’ and that was for me— nick. After last night, it was for lots of people,” Loboda said.
Loboda said he and Wardein were more than just best friends, they were family.
Wardein’s son told deputies he saw his father struggling to stay afloat, possibly due to the weight of the bag of golf balls attached to his weighed belt.
The report said the son tried to get in the water to help him but couldn’t find him.
By the time first responder found Wardein, it was too late.
“The man he is gold and God has the best angel up there right now. He is missed,” Albenga said.
The funeral arrangement is planned for Thursday.