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Community remembers Bob Ervin

More than 50 ambulances and fire trucks from Oregon and Washington converge in Madras to honor the EMT, who was killed in the line of duty
General Editor
   A procession of some 50 ambulances and fire trucks from Washington and all across Oregon conveyed the family members of paramedic Bob Ervin and hundreds of fire and emergency personnel to Ervin's memorial service at Jefferson County Middle School on Saturday.
   Ervin had responded to an accident New Year's Day and was killed after being struck by a semi along an icy, fog-covered Highway 97. The 43-year-old paramedic was a dedicated professional for 21 years and was in charge of training Jefferson County emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and keeping their skills updated.
   The service began with a fly over by Air Life of Oregon and a flag-folding ceremony by the Oregon Fire Service Honor Guard. The flag was placed on display next to a silver fireman's bell until the end of the service, which was conducted by Father Jim Stephens and Pastor Tom Hiller.
   Four friends spoke at the memorial, recollecting the impact Ervin had made on their lives.
   EMT-paramedic Liz Morgan donned a straw hat, sunglasses and Hawaiian shirt in a style often worn by her partner and friend Ervin, who she said, "liked to have fun and lived life largely."
   While Ervin liked to have fun, he was very serious about his work and a taskmaster to students he taught. While it's been said that rescue personnel are ordinary people who do extraordinary things, Morgan said Ervin was the exception.
   "Bob was extraordinary in every way. He had the most exceptional skills of anyone I ever worked with," she said, adding, "As a man he was my hero and my brother."
   Dr. Doug Lieuallen, physician advisor to local EMTs, remarked on Ervin's relationship with area doctors, noting, "He was able to anticipate the needs of caregivers better than anyone."
   Lieuallen said working in a small community did not dampen Ervin's determination and vision for emergency health care.
   "He was practical enough to know there were limitations, but dreamer enough to believe we could be the best. He demanded and accepted only the best," Lieuallen said, noting Erwin's efforts were felt throughout Central Oregon.
   Dr. Matthew Eschelbach and Ervin struck up a friendship when Eschelbach was an emergency room doctor at Mountain View Hospital, and they later served together on regional medical networking boards.
   Eschelbach admitted it was Ervin's constant questions after patients were brought in about what could have been done better that made him realize true emergency medicine began at the scene, not the hospital.
   "What Bob taught me was I wouldn't ever have a patient if he didn't do his job correctly," Eschelbach said.
   Ervin was a hero long before the accident that took his life, Eschelbach said. "He lost his life doing what he loved to do -- saving other people's lives. But he was already a hero to those who knew him for his caring concern, and his great courage."
   Eschelbach asked the entire audience of around 600 to stand and applaud "all the heroes among us" referring to Ervin as well as all other emergency personnel.
   Pastor Tom Hiller, who formerly worked with Ervin as the chaplain for JCEMS and the fire department, remarked on Ervin's habit of over-using the word "again" during EMT training sessions.
   What at first was a distraction, in second-light seemed to define Ervin's life.
   "It was more than just a speaking habit for Bob. It was his sense of duty. Again, and again and again he rolled out of bed to help save people. Again and again he was a good husband and father, and again and again a good citizen," Hiller said.
   Being a paramedic was more than a job, it was a calling to Ervin, and few people are fortunate enough to have a career that is part of their calling, Hiller observed.
   When someone dies as Bob did, some say it was God's will, Hiller said, noting he, personally did not view it that way.
   It wasn't God's will that he died, but "It was God's will that he was there that day helping people, doing God's work in the world, fighting pain," Hiller said.
   The speakers were followed by Warm Springs Fire chief Dan Martinez, who introduced drummer and singer Carlos Calica playing the "Tribal Honor Song," Dee Werner singing "I Can't Wait to See You Again," a song composed by her for Ervin's wife Marian, and Starla Greene performing The Lord's Prayer in sign language.
   The service concluded with a traditional Last Call as Jefferson County Fire Chief Earl Cordes held up his two-way radio and the sound of a dispatcher could be heard saying Ervin's call-out number for the last time.
   A silver fire bell was rung to toll out the last call, and with every peal, two members of the Oregon Fire Service Honor Guard dropped to one knee, with a hand to their head in a gesture of mourning.
   The American Flag, which had been placed below the bell throughout the service, was then presented to Ervin's wife Marian.
   The service was over, but on Highway 97 north of Madras, flowers and wooden cross crafted by Dr. Lieuallen marked the spot where Bob Ervin lost his life while helping others.