Marion ambulance volunteer Gene Winkler has retired from Marion County Emergency Medical Service as of Nov. 1 after 41 years of serving the community.
“I got into to doing this in August of 1972,” Winkler said. “It’s just time to let some of the younger kids do it.”
Winkler said he decided to take the required classes and received his EMT certification in 1972 a year after Marion County ambulance service was established.
“The county had a 1971 Ford Econline van,” Winkler said. “Back then we could use the oxygen bottle and perform CPR. But over the years it has evolved and we were able to perform more essential services.”
He said he felt he has made a difference in the community because he was able to provide patients with a higher level of care as he and other EMTs were trained to use medical equipment such as a defibrillator, a heart monitor, and perform blood sugar tests.
“Some of us, like Steve Smith, can even start I.V.s,” Winkler said. “It’s crucial to get an I.V. inserted and get fluids going into a patient when you are out on the scene of an accident.”
Winkler said he didn’t become an EMT because of the pay but rather because he wanted to help the community.
“It’s a rewarding deal to go out and help people,” he said. “In about 90-percent of the calls people know me, and I think it’s more comforting for them to have a familiar face there.”
Winkler said he enjoyed his time volunteering and he will miss it of because of the community connection.
“I reflect on calls now and I wished I would have kept a diary of every call,” Winkler said. “You get in some situations you know, some really bad calls. Some you’re able to help. But that’s something you don’t think about when you’re 30.”
Winkler is certified through 2014 and may still fill in occasionally if needed, but he doesn’t plan to be on the ambulance schedule anymore.
With his extra time, he said he plans to attend more of his grandchildren’s sporting events. He also plans to continue taping school sports and events as well as continuing to operate G&J Video.
“Maybe I will actually be able to finish a round of golf, too,” Winkler said.