The Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad was formed in 1961, with the first organizational meeting taking place in July of that year. As in most localities ambulance service prior to that time was provided by the local police department using the paddy wagon and the local undertaker using the hearse. Ogdensburg Rescue’s first ambulance was 1948 Cadillac hearse donated by local Mortician Charles Fox. It was promptly painted bright yellow, equipped with a siren, stretcher, and equipment necessary for caring for the sick and injured. It was housed in the first garage in the 300 block of Jay Street behind the VFW.

First Ambulance - 1948 Cadillac  Donated by Charles Fox Pictured - Tom Sequin & Bill Abbott
First Ambulance - 1948 Cadillac Donated by Charles Fox Pictured - Tom Sequin & Bill Abbott
1964 Ambulances and Crash Truck Jay Street Garage Behind the VFW
1964 Ambulances and Crash Truck Jay Street Garage Behind the VFW

The Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad, Inc. answered its first call on October 28, 1961. At that time there were no radio communications. The only communication was a “party type” telephone line which rang at the OVRS garage, Ogdensburg PD, and and Hepburn Hospital ER. The duty crew was then notified of the call by telephone.

The OVRS quickly outgrew its first building. On January 25, 1963 the OVRS moved into its second temporary home in the Old New York Telephone Building garage on State Street behind the Sperling Building. It was here that the OVRS began to man its building at night. One member slept on the couch, one on a cot, and a third in the back of the ambulance.

In 1965 the OVRS began a fund raising campaign to raise $40,000 for a permanent home. After raising $54,000 in donations the new building was built at the corner of Greene Street and the Crescent in Lyon Park. The building was constructed and dedicated in 1966 with the understanding that the squad must maintain the Lilac trees, and at least one picnic table in the park. It was around this time that the Offshore Rescue Unit came into being.

1978 - Green Street Building & Vehicles On the Crescent
1978 - Green Street Building & Vehicles On the Crescent

It was around 1968 that the Sheriff’s Department gave the OVRS some old low band radio units. Hepburn Hospital still didn’t have a radio but they were informed by the scanner installed in the ER. Hopefully someone was listening.

At that time the training requirements increased from a 2 -3 hour first aid course to a 9 hour advanced first aid course plus 3 hours of CPR training. in the early 1970’s requirements changed again, and squad members began to take the new 40 hour MET (Medical Emergency Technicians) course.

In 1976 the OVRS purchased its first modular ambulance The “Star Mod” cost $21,000.00 and was a heavy duty aluminum body on a Chevy one ton truck chassis. It later saw duty as the squad’s extrication truck.

1976 - First Modular Ambulance - $21,900  Pictured - Jerry Reed & Salesman Dick Stultz
1976 - First Modular Ambulance - $21,900 Pictured - Jerry Reed & Salesman Dick Stultz

In the mid 1970’s the training requirements increased again, and members now took the 90 hour Advanced EMT course.

In June 1978 Physician’s Assistant Sister Joan MacElwain became the first female member of the OVRS, soon followed by RN JoAnn McCabe. Sister Joan tried to teach the men to knit, and they wouldn’t let her watch HBO.

In 1975, New York State began plans for the Urban Renewal of Ogdensburg and the construction of the downtown arterial. This meant that the OVRS would need to find a new home. Under the Direction of Ed Dobisky, Temporary Chairman of the Advisory Board (for 17 years), and following a lot of political activity the current location in the Greenbelt was selected. Somehow Ed Dobisky, Chuck Kelly, Joe Tracy, and Judge Leonard got $70,000.00 from NYS for the old building.

Gus Monnet and Frank Murray then headed up a three year campaign to raise another $230,000.00 for the new building. The official opening was held on July 15, 1979. During this same time a separate fund drive was held for the “Jaws of Life” which were purchased in 1978.

1977 - Hurst Tools  'The Jaws of Life' Pictured - Joe O'Hare, Salesman Ron Ehman, & Roger Michael
1977 - Hurst Tools 'The Jaws of Life' Pictured - Joe O'Hare, Salesman Ron Ehman, & Roger Michael

Training had now become a real priority. In the early 1980’s the Advanced EMT course became the Basic EMT course and was now 110 hours long. Then came EMT-1, EMT-2, EMT-3, and EMT-D. These have now evolved into Basic EMT-D, EMT-I, EMT-CC, and EMT-P

In 1985 Robert Bromley became the OVRS’s first AEMT-CC. in 1986 17 members took the first EMT-D course in NYS and along with Massena and Potsdam Volunteer Rescue Squads took part in the first NYS EMT-D pilot program.

In 1990, dispatch was taken over by the St. Lawrence County Central Dispatch Office. With the help of the OVRS First Responder Units were established in the Heuvelton and Ogdensburg City Fire Departments, followed closely by the Rensselaer Falls Fire Department.

In 1992, all three of the OVRS’s ambulances were now equipped for Advanced Life Support Calls.

In 1995, it became necessary to begin billing for our ambulance service, as the cost of providing service continued to increase. 1995 was also the year that the OVRS begain to provide ALS services to the neighboring BLS ambulance services.

In 1997, Paramedic Mark Tuttle became the first employee of the Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad. An increasing number of calls and a decreasing number of volunteers made this move inevitable. In October of 1999, Mark became the first Director of Operations of the Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad. The time demands on the Chief and President had reached a point where it was impossible for volunteers to fulfill the duties of these full time positions.

In 2001 The Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad was named the New York State EMS Agency of the Year.

In 2007, under the guidance of Director Jennifer Romano, the OVRS became the first ambulance service in St. Lawrence County to carry narcotics. That year also saw the members of the Off Shore Rescue and Recovery Team certified to use enriched air for their dive operations.

In 2008 the OVRS began carrying Nitrous Oxide for pain relief.

The current Director of Operations is *****. In addition the OVRS now employees three full time and five part time and per diem Advanced Life Support Providers. The 39 Volunteer Members with various levels of training continue to be the backbone of the OVRS.

*From “The Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad, A History,” by Alfred H. Hogan with contributions from Joe Basta, and Storm Cilley

Charter Members

Signed Certificate of Incorporation, August 8, 1961

Wallace A. St. Andrews Joseph S. Mashaw
Ronald E. Letham Ralph Laboda
William R. Abbott Henry K. Murray
David Putman Thomas J. Seguin
W. C. Austin Albert Montroy
Stephen Austin Joseph W. Lightfoot
Bruce F. Durand Wayne Frick
A. L. Knapp David B. Wolfanger
Preston C. Carlisle

1961 Membership

Taken from Original History of the OVRS

Abbott, William Babel, Walter Sr. Boeheim, Fred
Bova, Herman Costigan, Harry England, Al
Farley, Bill Gates, Cam George, Jim
Halpin, Bob Huthcinson, Frank Ladoucer, Wayne
LaRose, John LaRue, Walt Letham, Ron
Lightfoot, Joe Lyons, Harold Manville, Dan
Mashaw, Joe Miller, John Needle, Bud
Rickett, Horace Roach, Gary Roach, Harold
Rocker, Tom Seguin, Tom Sequin, Don
Sholette, Hector Sovie, Donald Wilson, Arthur