TESTIMONIAL AT BASSETT HALL
BY JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – For decades, they had learned from him. They had emulated him. They had admired him.
And Saturday, Jan. 25, hundreds of EMTs from around Otsego County gathered to celebrate Fred Lemister and to thank him for his prowess as a trainer and his 48 years of service to the Cooperstown Emergency Squad, where he responded to a record 9,400 emergency calls.
“No one’s going to surpass those numbers,” said John Phillips, a member of the Fly Creek Volunteer Fire Department and its ambulance squad.
For an hour following a two-hour reception, Lemister, with wife and helpmate Karen by his side, was showered with praise, gifts and fond remembrances. But, true to form, he turned it around.
Taking the podium as the evening neared the end, he declared to the rapt gathering, “You are a unique breed, people. Don’t ever forget that. You are different. Fortunately different. You are not like most people, and be thankful for that.
“Life is a gift, people,” he continued. “And we need to give back for that gift. You people here have given back for that gift. I look upon you as being Good Samaritans, as helping other people in need without any thought of reward.
“You are indeed doing God’s work.”
The audience erupted into a standing ovation.
Young Fred, shortly after returning from Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., joined the year-old Cooperstown squad in 1970, two years before taking over his family’s restaurant, Sherrie’s, where Mel’s at 22 is today.
His first call, in March 1971, involved a Fly Creek man who died while snowblowing. The young recruit was devastated, but “Dunnie” – Alton G. Dunn, Jr., one of the founding squad members – “applied verbal first aid to me.” And he stayed, and soon was mentoring others.
On arriving from Long Island in 1989 with two years’ professional experience in Queens, Bob Satriano – to Fred, “Babalouie” – was immediately drafted by Lemister into the Cooperstown squad.
In his remarks, Satriano recounted one of his first experiences, wading through chest-high snow in response to a call at a German Flatts trailer with the unflappable veteran, who handled such challenges routinely.
Soon recruited to help Fred with EMT training, he recalled how, just before a state exam, a student admitted she had never taken blood pressure during six months of training.
“I thought Fred would need HIS blood pressure taken. ‘Babalouie, take her into another room and do not come out until she can take blood pressures – and accurately,’” said Satriano. “I think we finished about 1:30 a.m. Exam night, they all passed with excellence.”
And that wasn’t unusual. “I remember an EMT final exam given and whole class did unbelievably well,” said Fire Chief Jim Tallman in his remarks. “So much so that the State of New York said the whole class had to take the test over again.
“On the retest, everyone did just as well or better.”
Eric Pierce, Cooperstown’s squad captain, chaired the organizing committee (and emceed the evening), and said he had no trouble lining up support. Brian Wrubleski, Mel’s at 22 Proprietor, organized the catering – built around beef tenderloin – from his vacation in Hawaii.
In addition to Pierce and Satriano, the organizing committee included Monica Carrascoso, Diane Nicols, Mike Simons, Victor Jones, Alicia Lasher and Allison Phillips.
Fred and Karen, who are also Rudy’s Liquor Store proprietors, have been spending as much time as they can in Florida with the families of son Andrew (including twins Addison and AJ, both 11) in Jacksonville, and daughter Kimberley and her family (including McKenna, 9, and Cassidy, 7) in Oviedo.
So one of the gift they received were airline tickets, as well as a Cooperstown Bat and a bowl of 9,400 M&Ms, one for each of Lemister’s calls. Brinton Muller, Bassett Healthcare’s network director for emergency preparedness, announced the EMS Room in the ambulance bay at the Cooperstown hospital’s emergency room will be renamed in
A. Fred Lemister’s honor.
In his remarks, Chief Tallman also picked up on the family theme, thanking Karen “for loaning Fred to us,” and for “the missed dinners, the holidays, the birthday parties, and times you were left at a table in a restaurant … That is dedication.”
He pointed out Fred would have been in the fire department 51 years this March, in addition to joining the squad in 1970, the year after it formed. He recalled the many calls and his success as an instructor. “That is dedication,” he repeated.