Friday, March 10, 2017

Servanthood- A Tribute to Bill

In Tribute

We take a detour today from our usual ambulance billing topic to pay tribute to a gentleman giant of EMS. We hope you read on to learn more about this individual who represented the very spirit and mission of what EMS should be all about.

Servanthood- A Tribute to Bill

The Coal Region

We begin this tribute in Northeastern Pennsylvanian in an area we label “The Coal Region.”

Amidst the rolling hills encompassing Schuylkill, Northumberland, Columbia, Luzerne, Carbon and Lackawanna Counties are dozens of communities that were birthed in the early to mid-20th Century sitting literally atop one of the world’s largest deposits of anthracite coal. Whole villages and boroughs were seeded by the coal barons creating bustling hamlets with vibrant downtowns and generations of families that drew their livelihood from “King Coal.”

Mahanoy City and Frackville are two of those communities.


In its heyday, Coal Region businesses thrived including one business known as McLaren’s Auto Supply.

McLaren’s was the epitome of main-street America in the 1950’s and 1960’s. A family-owned business, McLaren’s was a staple in the downtowns of not only Mahanoy City, but neighboring Frackville and Girardville too. In addition to supplying parts for the growing number of automobiles purchased by those coal mining families, one could even seek out television repairs too.

A young William R. “Bill” McLaren was the second-generation owner of the business.

Like so many young people in the mid-1940’s, Bill graduated from Mahanoy City High School in 1944 and immediately joined the war effort as the United States was in the throes of beating back Nazi aggression across Europe. Bill grew up in an era of serving and he never lost that calling. Together with his bride, Verna- the love of his life, they settled down into post-war era life in The Coal Region.

Frackville Community Ambulance Association

Bill also found a new passion when he became a volunteer with the young Frackville Community Ambulance Association. He and Verna were typical of community-minded small-business owners of their days. They believed in not only earning a living from their community, but also strongly believed in giving back to their community.

While Verna kept the books of the Ambulance Association, meticulously accounting for every penny and coordinating the annual fund drive, Bill quickly became the guy that “ran the show.” As his involvement grew in the day before pagers and cell phones, Bill’s store became the de facto dispatch center for the Frackville Ambulance where he would be alerted of an emergency by the Schuylkill County Communications Center and then take to the telephone to muster a crew.

We’re told that Bill was very persuasive in convincing volunteers to leave what they were doing to man the ambulance. And…when needed… he’d leave his own business and respond to the call for help.

Then, when Bill finally shuttered the business in retirement; he and Verna gave even more time to the Ambulance Association acting as members of the Board of Directors and taking on the daily management and oversight of the organization. When Bill lost Verna in 2012, he filled his loneliness by daily occupying his desk in the Frackville Ambulance station assuming the untitled role of business manager through his twilight years.

Servanthood Defined

Two years ago, at age 88, Bill suffered a nasty fall sustaining a life-threatening neck injury that would have put down men of younger years.

Not Bill.

After spending some time in rehabilitation, Bill returned to the office chair at the Frackville Community Ambulance Association every day until late in 2016 when another fall eventually led to a chain of events that cost him his life.

Bill died on February 4th.

This past Sunday, the Christ Lutheran Church in Mahanoy City was filled with family and friends who paid loving tribute to a man who lived life to the fullest. In his eulogy, the Reverend Fred T. Crawford, one of Bill’s life-long friends, told of his last visit with Bill when Bill expressed concern that he needed to return to the ambulance office to “…close out the books for last year.”

You won’t read about Bill in JEMS. Bill’s passing wasn’t noted in the American Ambulance Association’s daily e-mail blast. But, make no mistake, the EMS community in Pennsylvania lost a giant and a true gentleman when Bill entered eternity.

Bill didn’t get involved in EMS to make a name for himself. He simply got involved to make a difference in his community and serve his neighbors.

Bill defined Servanthood.

Rest in Peace, Bill. Thank you for being a standard bearer of Servanthood in EMS both yesterday and today. May we all follow your example as modern EMS continues on a little less excellent without you.

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