Life in Evergreen: Hats off to the ambulance service

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

Years can go by without my running across fellow volunteers I worked with on the ambulance service back in the days when it was all volunteer, prior to merging with the fire department in the mid 1980s.  But in the past 10 days or so I've encountered a number of people who've reminded me of those times.

Kitty Gallas (pictured left) was an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) on the force in the early 1980s.  I saw her at both the Boogie at the Barn and the Author Extravaganza, and she's hardly aged a bit since then!  Now retired from nursing, she's getting out and about a bit more.  She's one of the EMTs who was always on call to treat patients on scene or transport them to the emergency room.


John Putt (left in the picture) stepped forward after I'd snapped his picture with a group at the ceremony inducting new firefighters into the department.  John served as a paramedic back in those days and remains active with Alpine Rescue Team still helping people as a volunteer in emergency situations.  He was visiting with Mark Davidson (right in the picture), who devoted 29 years to the fire department and was always well respected when the firefighters and the ambulance crew sometimes acted like rivals.

I get to meet lots of new people taking pictures.  One identified herself as Joann Vogt at EChO's Grand Opening a week ago.  Her husband, Terry, and late brother-in-law, Dan, were both emergency room physicians (actually help set up the ER at Lutheran Hospital many moons ago), and her brother-in-law, Dan Vogt, served as an advisor to a number of ambulance services in rural Colorado, Evergreen being one.

Today, while attending the Memorial Day service at Buchanan Park, Cheryl Thaxton approached me.  Cheryl was another one of those tireless volunteers who got up out of bed in the middle of the night and left her family on holidays to make emergency runs.  She and her good friend, Julie, were two of the first paid EMTs in Evergreen.  Sadly, Julie was killed in an auto accident about 20 years ago.

I remember when Ann Wood recorded more than 100 runs in a single year.  Considering each run averaged 3 hours, that was quite a commitment as a volunteer.  

Working with the Evergreen Ambulance Service was really my introduction to Evergreen.  As the story goes, I'd lived here a year and only knew 5 people – and 3 of them lived in the same household with me!  I had a soft spot for ambulance services in rural towns and called to see if I could help, saying I had didn't have what it took for the "blood and guts" sort of action, but I did have some fundraising experience.  

Long story short, we worked together for a few years, although I never was allowed to be a full-fledged member – only EMTs and paramedics could be members.  But together we conducted a community-wide campaign to build an "ambulance barn" in the early '80s, funded entirely by donations and constructed with volunteer labor.  With such growth in the community – 10,000 new residents every decade in the '70s, '80s and '90s – volunteers could no longer keep up with the increasing demands.  It merged with the fire department a year after the barn-raising that erected their first real home.  That structure is now known as Station 4 along Hwy. 73.

When someone named "Mattivi" was honored by Bootstraps last week, I knew it had to be Mark Mattivi's son.  Mark was another paramedic, putting himself through college at the time – or maybe just out of college.  He'd work at Denver General to get the most experience he could and volunteer in Evergreen on his off days.

A year or so ago I re-upped my handgun certification after taking a class from Bill Butler, a former geologist with the USGS, now a private investigator who teaches handgun safety.  Bill was president of Evergreen Ambulance while I was involved.

The people who spent countless hours at ungodly times of the day and night are the ones who inspired me to get involved with the community.  They inspired me 30-some years ago, and they still do.  I've met plenty of volunteers over the years, but none as giving as those folks who just disappeared from the scene after the merger with the fire department.  As with remembering people on Memorial Day, I honor with fond memories those who gave so many hours with so little recognition over a period of about 25 years as Evergreen grew from a couple thousand year-round residents to one of about 40,000.