Edward M. Sparks
November 4, 1955 - July 9, 2015
Ed Sparks passed away today from a massive heart attack.
Ed has been like a neighbor for the past couple of summers because he lived on Bailey Island, Maine and I am on Orr's Island, Maine. This is made even more difficult because he was only 59 years old.
He will be greatly missed here on the Onan board and the rest of Smokstak.
Orr's & Bailey Islands Fire Department
Husband and Wife EMTs Retiring from OBIFD After 20 Years
November 15, 2013
For the past several years, anyone calling for emergency medical assistance on Orr's, Bailey and parts of Great Island likely met Ed or Colette Sparks.
Regardless of the time or day, the weather, or the nature of the emergency, the Sparks were likely to answer the call for help. Over the years, they have treated hundreds of island residents and visitors, comforting them and their loved ones in times of distress and saving lives.
But the Sparks will make their last runs later this month when the long-time emergency medical technicians officially retire as active volunteers for the Orr's and Bailey Islands Fire Department, effective at the end of the year.
"We have a passion for helping others and have met some wonderful folks over the decades, and listened to many stories from the elders about life in simpler times," said Ed Sparks, who has served as Rescue Captain for the past several years. "We have met folks in the best of times and the worst times of their lives."
But Sparks said the time is right for the couple to move on and spend more time on their business and personal lives.
"There also are many changes underfoot. Some of these are at the federal level, the state level and at the local level," Ed Sparks said. "We, like many members of the community, are Boomers and this is a young persons' business."
Their departure will leave a huge void in the volunteer department, which serves Orr's, Bailey and the southern end of Great Island.
"Ed and Colette served the department tirelessly for 20 years. They helped hundreds of people responding to both fire and EMS calls during their tenure," said OBI Fire Chief Ed Blain. "Filling their shoes won't be easy."
The Sparks' retirement will leave OBIFD with just one qualified EMT, who is currently living out of town. More volunteers are expected to attend a town-wide EMT training class beginning in January and the town is moving toward providing 24-hour EMS through Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, at least through March.
While more responders could help extend the volunteer rescue service, Ed Sparks said he thinks permanent paid EMS coverage is inevitable.
"This Department has been fortunate to have the support of residents and taxpayers for many years. However, the needs are changing and it may not be the service model we now know in the future," he said. "I would like to believe that there is hope for the volunteer system to continue providing local care to our citizens. However, the reality is without new blood this may not be possible."
He said the problem is not unique to Harpswell.
"There is a trend nationwide, and right here in Maine, to consolidate emergency medical services and make them regionalized. Some under local government, some under county wide services," Ed Sparks said. "I see Harpswell in the near future having a single paid service consolidated and tax-supported as many other local towns have been forced to do in recent years."
Those changes would be among many the Sparks have seen over their years of service.
"When I started, ambulance attendants could only provide basic bleeding control, splinting and, maybe, if you were a progressive service, oxygen. The ambulances were converted station wagons or hearses and many places ambulance service was provided by the local funeral home," Ed Sparks said.
"Today's ambulance services are advanced life support mobile emergency rooms. We have much of the same equipment and medications as are available at the hospital ERs," he said. "We are an extension of those ERs proving needed stabilization in the field, prior to transporting the patient to the hospital for further treatment."
Ed Sparks, 58, works full-time as a carpenter, while Colette, 57, is a registered nurse on the medical surgical floor at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick. They also breed and raise Labrador retrievers.
Both were born in Springfield, Mass., married as teenagers, and moved frequently after Ed joined the Navy. They discovered the Brunswick area in 1976 when Ed was a Navy reservist and made their first visit to Bailey Island during the Blizzard of 1978. They began spending summer vacations on Bailey Island and moved there full time when they bought their home in 1994.
The Sparks had considerable emergency medical experience before arriving in town, including working on ambulance and rescue crews at stock car races throughout New England.
Soon after moving to Bailey Island, a close friend suffered a heart attack and Ed Sparks came to his aid, starting CPR before the OBI rescue crew arrived. After his friend was safely taken to the hospital, the responders began urging Sparks to become a department volunteer, calling or bringing cookies and desserts to their home almost daily until he said yes.
Colette Sparks joined a few months later, "so I could see him more often," she said.
While reluctant to discuss many specifics because of patient privacy requirement, the Sparks said they lots of memories from their years of service.
"There have been many memorable people we have met over the years," he said. "Listening to stories from a 100-year-old fisherman as we helped him during his last few years was an incredible thing. Many of our elderly are a fountain of historical knowledge that is being lost as they pass on."
The Sparks received thanks from many of their colleagues and neighbors when they were presented with the OBIFD Award for Extraordinary Service at the department's annual recognition dinner in November.
"Thank you Ed for your 20 years of being a firefighter, advanced E.M.T. and rescue captain," says the award presented to Ed Sparks by OBIFD President Michael Helfgott. "You have responded to any call for help whether it be picking up donated medical equipment or comforting a person in physical or emotional distress. You have worn many hats and it will be hard to replace you."
Colette Sparks' award thanked her for "20 years of service as a firefighter, advanced E.M.T., trainer of E.M.T.s and representative to the Maine Federation of Firefighters."
"Your dedication to the success of the fire/rescue departments has ensured the safety and well being and quality of life in our community," both award plaques state.
For their part, the Sparks said their true reward was the opportunity to help their neighbors and make the community a better place to live.
"It has been my great honor to serve the people of this community. I am grateful that I have been accepted it as a neighbor," Colette Sparks said.
Now, they said, it is time to relax a little and enjoy life.
"We are celebrating our 39th anniversary this year," Ed Sparks said. "And we are making plans for our first real vacation in over a decade."