Island honors ambulance founders

Kirk Boxleitner kboxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 1/17/17

For years, Paula Lalish and her husband, Greg, trained volunteers who helped provide free ambulance service to residents of Marrowstone Island.

On Monday, Jan. 16, the two were honored as …

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Island honors ambulance founders

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For years, Paula Lalish and her husband, Greg, trained volunteers who helped provide free ambulance service to residents of Marrowstone Island.

On Monday, Jan. 16, the two were honored as Marrowstone Island Citizens of the Year.

The two worked tirelessly between the late 1970s until the mid-1990s. Paula Lalish volunteered for the Marrowstone Island Emergency Medical Service (MEMS) as an EMT and caregiver for more than 20 years. Greg was a volunteer first responder, ambulance driver and Chimacum firefighter for many of the years. They retired shortly after Fire District No. 1 assumed the service.

“I know their volunteer contributions saved lives,” said daughter Signe Rose Lalish. “I remember hearing the beeper go off late at night and one of them getting dressed and leaving. Then the next morning, I remember them telling us a little about the call, if there was anything allowed to tell.”

The couple are grandparents and still serving their community with kindness, grace and creativity, said Marrowstone resident Rita Kepner.

Greg Lalish continues to mentor younger builders, sharing his skills by teaching hands-on activities such as cob building construction. Paula spent years with hospice, transporting her large musical harp around the area, to the hospital and people’s homes, providing private and community concerts to comfort the dying and their families.

“Paula came into our home to play for my mother, and I watched Mom’s face soften with inner peace in a way so obvious that it brought me and Paula to tears,” Kepner said.

Greg expressed some skepticism about his merits for the award, joking, “My theory has been, if you live on this island long enough, you’ll go through this. So many of our friends have gone through it that I thought they might run out of other people, and get around to us.”

Paula emphasized that, in all seriousness, they felt honored by the award, which they only found out they were receiving seven minutes prior to the Jan. 16 meeting.

“We didn’t think anyone was paying attention to what we were doing, nor would we have expected them to,” Paula said. “It’s nice to be able to join this club.”

Greg sees local volunteerism as “the highest form” of civic participation, and regrets not joining the fire service earlier, since he was already 37 years old when he started.

“Your physical prime as a responder is the ages of 20-40,” Greg said.

“Well, I was 48 when I first became an EMT,” said Paula, who now feels “guilty” about not having volunteered as much in recent years.

“After all, I’ve got a reputation to live up to now,” she said, laughing.

Marrowstone Island Citizens of the Year are selected by prior Citizens of the Year, who review nominations submitted by a current island residents.

The criteria are that the person or persons selected must have made important/significant volunteer contributions to life on Marrowstone Island and/or Jefferson County.

The purpose of the award is to recognize that citizens who call Marrowstone Island “home” are unique in experience and diverse in background and interests.

Among them, certain individuals reach beyond the ordinary, and in so doing have made a lasting or significant difference to the greater community through their volunteerism, activism and leadership. Paula and Greg Lalish are exemplars of “beyond the ordinary.”

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