OCEANFRONT — After more than 30 years of service to the city, Ann Morse, a paramedic who lives in Ocean Lakes, rode her final shift as a member of Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad, Rescue 14, on Saturday, Feb. 25 to Sunday, Feb. 26.
Before she set out Saturday evening with John Irish, with whom she has worked for more than a decade, she posed for photos and checked the ambulance. Then she stood in the station, as evening traffic passed along Virginia Beach Boulevard nearby, and listened when, over the radio, her work was recognized by the Virginia Beach Emergency Medical Services Department and then colleagues around the city.
First came a statement about Morse, a life member with the squad. She has served on competition teams that earned award after award. She has helped people, taught people and led them, too. Among many accomplishments, she put diving and lifesaving experience to use for the marine rescue team and worked with the city’s heavy response team.
Nearby, in a hallway, framed awards showed image after image of her smile amid commemoration of awards – a smile that is as well-known to her colleagues as her professionalism, according to John Neumayer, equipment lieutenant for the squad.
Standing near the ambulance, listening to the radio, Morse clearly was moved — especially once the messages came in.
Thank you, Ann, for all your hard work and dedication in providing excellent service to our city. We wish you all the best in your retirement and future endeavors.
This was the first example of what will become a city EMS member retirement recognition to send off those who have served the city’s rescue system for 25 years or more. For a variety of reasons, such as work or leaving the area, many volunteers serve a handful of years.
One by one, many of those who served with and learned from Morse spoke to her over an open radio channel.
Marine Rescue 14 to Ann. Thank you, for everything, Ann. You taught me a lot. Enjoy your retirement. You deserve it. … Godspeed. … Wishing you the best. Thank you for your service. … Ann, thanks for being there. … Thanks for everything you’ve done for the team. … You’ve been a fantastic instructor, always somebody to depend on. … Navy Engine 18, Fort Story, for Ann. Thank you for your years of service, your dedication as a mentor and instructor.
There were damp eyes and a few hugs.
During an interview, Irish, who has served more than 36 years and also is a life member, spoke with pride about Morse and the work of volunteering for this community.
“We run rescue,” he said. “We don’t want the money. … We know a lot. We’ve brought life into the world, and we’ve been there when we couldn’t keep life in the world.”
Theirs was a strong partnership.
“We didn’t have to talk to each other to get the job done,” Irish said. “She is, hands down, the best [advanced life support paramedic] I’ve ever seen in my career.”
Irish noted that the volunteer-fueled system, in which some join for training they can use to get paid work elsewhere, has an opening for someone with a desire to serve their hometown. “I’m going to need a new partner,” he said.
The goodbye was bittersweet for Morse, who said she would have kept volunteering but could no longer meet shift requirements due to work and family commitments.
“Otherwise,” she said during a telephone interview later, “I’d continue to run.”
That doesn’t mean she’s done serving.
“I think it’s a time off,” she said. “I will consider how else I can help the squads.”
She first came to the rescue squad in 1980, and she initially helped out as a historian and photographer.
“I finally decided, you know, I might as well just get the EMT,” she said, speaking of training and certification.
“It was like a little bug in my ear,” Morse said. “It was fun. I got to meet lots of people. I got to help people, and I got to go fast in the ambulance.”
She joined officially in 1986, and she was committed to the squad, even traveling back to Virginia over the course of two years to stay qualified to serve while studying out of state for her nurse practitioner’s career.
Morse said she valued the volunteer service with the rescue squad because she got to meet and help people in the community.
“Whether it be helping a little girl with a lost mom or dad, helping bring someone back to life, reassuring someone with an illness,” she said. “There have been a lot of times it’s just talking to somebody. We’re there.”
And her last night was a lively one. One call was for a person suffering from a gunshot wound.
“We took care of him,” she said.
She noted her time with the marine rescue team, where she served as assistant squad commander. She joined as their only paramedic. The team needed medical personnel when they went in the water.
Speaking on the phone, a few days after that last shift for the city, after hearing messages from her colleagues go out over the radio, she said that she looked forward to spending more time with her family — and she added that a number of her family members also have served as volunteers.
And Morse was sure of this: “I’ll find another way of giving back.”
Learn more about the Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad by visiting the squad’s website at this link.
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