Rudy’s proprietor Fred Lemister ponders the lessons of 9-11 while inspecting the memorial that has been growing year to year in his front window on Main Street, Cooperstown, since terrorist hijacked airliners and drove them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, 19 years ago tomorrow. The exhibit includes a portrait of Father Michael F. Judge, the NYFD chaplain, who suffered a heart attack and died on arriving at the scene; Lemister, a retired EMT and firefighter, considers Judge to be the first victim of the attack. Again this year, Cathy Raddatz, whose brother George Morell, a Cantor Fitzgerald broker, died in the Towers, is placing hundreds of small flags around the village, including displays at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Christ Episcopal Church and Lakefront Park. Lemister reported some patrons at his store ask him, “What’s 911?” He said, “Those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it.” In all, 2,977 died in the Twin Towers, the attack on the Pentagon, and the airplane crash in Shanksville, Pa., famed for the famous cry, “Let’s Roll.” (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
In this week’s “Morning Headlines” on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, Jim Kevlin, editor/publisher of www.AllOTSEGO.com (and Hometown Oneonta & the Freeman’s Journal), talks about last Saturday’s testimonial at Bassett Hall, where more than 200 wellwishers thanked Fred Lemister for his 9,400-call career as an EMT and EMT trainer.
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.
Everyone who was anyone in the world of Otsego County EMTs – hundreds of them, past and present – gathered at Bassett Hall in Cooperstown for four hours this afternoon and evening to celebrate Fred Lemister, primer inter pares in the local EMS world, who recently stepped down after 48 years of service to Cooperstown’s emergency squad, where he responded to 9,600 ambulance calls. Even more significant, a top-notch instructor, he trained nearly every EMT serving in Otsego County over many years. In top photo, Brinton Muller, Bassett Healthcare’s network director for emergency preparedness, announces the EMS Room in the ambulance bay at the Cooperstown hospital’s emergency room will be renamed in Lemister’s honor. As Muller congratulates Fred, wife Karen examines a souvenir aerial photo of the hospital presented to the honoree. At the podium is Cooperstown EMS Captain Eric Pierce, who helped organize today’s testimonial and emceed the event. Inset right, David Butler, former Hartwick town supervisor and EMS mainstay there, pours 100 M&Ms into bowl that, by evening’s end, contained one M&M for every call Fred made over a half-century of service. In concluding remarks, Lemister, inset left, praised his EMS colleagues, comparing them to the Biblical Good Samaritan. “Life is a gift, people,” he said. “And we need to give back for that gift. You people here have given back for that gift.” (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Hartwick’s O’Donnell-Kelly School of Dance brought the sounds and steps of Ireland to The Knights of Columbus Tekawitha Council 10968 annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner this evening at St. Mary’s “Our Lady of the Lake” Parish Hall in Cooperstown. High-stepping out front is Tess DiLorenzo. Behind her, from left, are McKenna Selleck, Morgan Kelley and Maya Stevens. Inset at right is Fred Lemister, the evening’s official Leprechaun. At left is Chef Joe Carentz, who’s been contributing his expertise in the kitchen for years. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)