On Sunday, November 30 Len Harmon and Carson Hamber, two long-serving members of the Sidney Ambulance Service, were pleasantly surprised by an informal honour guard and a subsequent celebration held at the Sidney Ambulance Station.
The pair were met by the honour guard made up of their peers within the Sidney Ambulance Service as well as representatives from North and Central Saanich, Sidney Fire Department, RCMP, and the Victoria Paramedics. The men and women of those services lined the sidewalks from Third Street and Beacon Avenue in Sidney, all the way down to the ambulance station — all there to celebrate the pair’s retirement and express gratitude for their exemplary service to the community.
“It was really something,” said Hamber. “They just came and got me in Victoria and brought me out to Sidney … I had no idea that this was happening.”
Hamber had served as the Unit Chief of the Sidney Ambulance Service and Harmon had been a paramedic. The two men, who together account for more than 75 years of service, both retired as of November 30 and expressed their sincere gratitude for the event.
“It just blew me away,” said Harmon. “It was so humbling to have these people come out and say thanks. These are people who have always been there for me, and I respect them more than you can imagine.”
Their experience will be difficult to match. For example, when Hamber started work in July of 1974 things were a little less sophisticated than they are today.
“It was basically a ‘scoop and run’ affair,” said Hamber. “We had a big old Cadillac and an econoline van and there really wasn’t much we could do in the back of either of those.
“Still, we made it work.”
Both men acknowledged that it will be the people who they met on the job that they’ll miss the most.
“I’ve seen it all during my time on the job … so many great people,” said Harmon. “I’ve delivered babies and I’ve been there during illness and death … but through it all it’s all those great people who made the job a wonderful experience.”
Harmon said that he has seen a multitude of changes over the years and spoke whimsically about the fact that he first met some of Sidney’s leading citizens back when he was doing show and tell presentations at local elementary schools and those men and women of today were children listening to what he had to say.
The men’s jobs haven’t, by any means, been easy.
“We sometimes saw people when they are at the worst points in their lives,” said Hamber. “It was a challenge.”
Harmon maintained that it was the support of family and others in the field that made it possible to do the job well.
“Things can go sideways pretty quickly when you’re on the job,” he said. “But my wife and good friends like Mike McGregor, the Unit Chief in Central Saanich, were always there to listen and make sure that I was okay with whatever had happened.”
According to George Hammond, a current member of Sidney’s Ambulance Service and one of the organizers of the event, the celebration was the least that the service could do given the contribution that had been made by the two men.
“You’re losing leaders when you lose guys like this,” said Hammond. “You can’t quantify experience like that … can’t just replace that. When they go, it’s gone.”
Hammond said that it’s now up to other senior members of the service to step into the breach and try to fulfil that role.
“We have some great people, but it’s always hard to replace men like Len and Carson. They’ll be missed.”
— Tim Collins/News staff