Dr. Donald Liu, chief of pediatric surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s Hospital, saw the two boys, who were friends of the family, swept up in the water. Despite protests from his own children, who were scared about the dangerous conditions, Liu went in to save them.

“You couldn’t stop him,” Liu’s wife, Dr. Dana Suskind, told ABCNews.com today. “He always did the right thing.”

The two boys made it back to the shore near Cherry Beach in Chikaming, but Liu, 50, did not survive the 6-foot swells and treacherous currents.

“After he saved those boys and I couldn’t see him, they finally found him and they pulled him from the water. I tried to do mouth-to-mouth, but I knew. And it was so painful,” Suskind said between sobs.