Island Heroes

Acts of heroism that took place in Island County during 2004 received due honor and recognition at the American Red Cross Island County Chapter’s 7th Annual Real Heroes Breakfast 2005.

Community members, fire department volunteers, law enforcement officers, emergency medical providers and business sponsors gathered March 1 at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge to honor the people who performed these heroics.

From saving large antlered Great Danes to talking someone out of suicide; pulling a younger sibling away from a burning truck or administering the Heimlich maneuver, each act of kindness, bravery and response received equal thanks.

Those who had acted heroically received Real Heroes Awards.

Ron Eerkes, American Red Cross Island County Chapter’s board chairman, said when he thinks of these individuals, he thinks of people who genuinely cared about others.

Each hero received a replica of the stained glass window from the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington D.C., which depicts a knight ministering to a fallen comrade’s wounds.

Which is just what these heroes did.

Kenneth Brown received the Adult Good Samaritan Award for his quick response when he came upon the scene of a car accident on Sept. 18, 2004. An 18-month-old child was unconscious after being pulled from a car partially submerged in water. Brown assisted in checking the child out and reviving it.

The next day, Brown found himself administering CPR yet again, when an 87-year-old woman had a heart attack at the restaurant where he was celebrating his birthday with family members.

The other recipient of the Adult Good Samaritan Award, Bernard “Jerry” Fitzgerald, received this honor for saving a woman’s life by administering the Heimlich maneuver when she began choking at the Military Officers of America Association Christmas 2004 dinner in December.

Fitzgerald said he felt honored for the recognition and the award, but that he did no more than anyone else would have done in a similar situation.

Lucas Helland, 3, received the the Youth Good Samaritan Award for assisting family members through emergency situations twice in one week. The first time, Lucas made calls on his mother’s cell phone to his father and older sisters, after his mother fell and lost consciousness. And the second time, Lucas pulled his 2-year-old brother, Logan, away from his father’s truck, which caught fire one afternoon while the boys played near it. After pulling his brother a safe distance from the truck, Lucas called for his mother to come help with the fire.

“I wasn’t scared, but Logan was,” he said, of their ordeal.

Oak Harbor’s Keith Bartlett, owner of the Pot Belly Deli who died this Thanksgiving, received the Humanitarian Award for all his work in starting Oak Harbor’s Community Harvest Celebration. It was Bartlett’s hope that everyone in the community who wanted to have an old fashioned Thanksgiving dinner and good company could have both at these harvest celebrations.

Bartlett’s wife Judy received the award in Bartlett’s stead.

“I want to thank everyone for him,” she said. “It should be Keith up here right now.”

Christopher Chan received the Firefighter’s Award for all of his work and community volunteering. In 2004, Chan responded to approximately 60 medical calls and 20 fire calls.

“I was surprised to be nominated,” Chan said. “I’m honored actually. There were a lot of good people out there and I just happened to get recognized.”

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue volunteer Keith Scruggs received the Animal Rescue Award for rescuing a large Great Dane that had fallen down a cliff and gotten stuck on a ledge at Deception Pass in December of 2004. Having just posed for a Christmas picture, the dogs was adorned in reindeer antlers and bells. At 110 pounds, the dog weighed a little less than Scruggs, and it took time, effort and care to get them both up the 30 foot cliffside to safety.

And lastly, the Police Officer Award went to Deputy Marshall Hodges Gowdy, who placed himself in danger, on a outcrop of a 200 foot drop, to talk to a man on the verge of suicide. Gowdy said he had to build a rapport with the man, who already had a rope around his neck, and try to talk to him of other options. Successfully talking the man out of suicide, Gowdy then drove him to the hospital without ever using force.

Master of Ceremonies and American Red Cross Island County Chapter Vice Chairman Rick Bell thanked all those in attendance for their support and told the audience that no one knows when they might come across a life-threatening situation or other emergency, and that willingness and preparation go a long way toward making a hero.

Like the event program said, these individuals are “Everyday people, everyday heroes ... who help when help can’t wait.”

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