Ed Gregory, 74, grew up in Bridgehampton and runs an electrical contracting firm founded in1935 by his father and uncle. He moved to Sag Harbor 50 years ago, when he married Judy Fordham, whose family roots in the village go back 11 generations. He was elected six times as a village trustee and, with John Schoen and others, helped found the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps. This month, after more than 40 years of service, he formally retired as a member.
What made you want to volunteer in the first place?
That goes back to 1963. That was the year I graduated from Bridgehampton High School and it also was the year my brother had a bad car accident on Long Beach. I can remember it pretty vividly. I was in Sag Harbor at a friend’s house and my parents called me to say that my brother had been in a bad car accident, you’d better get to the hospital. When I got there, he wasn’t there. So we waited, and waited, and all of a sudden here comes in Mr. John Schoen and another fellow with my brother. Fortunately, my brother survived and everything was fine.
How did you decide to run for the Village Board in 1978?
We had an ambulance company but it was kind of haphazard; it wasn’t a real organization. So we went to the village, a number of us fellows — John Schoen, John Schiavoni from the grocery store, Charlie Dowdel from the post office, Emil Duchemin, and a couple of other fellows — we went to the village to ask them if we could actually have a real organization, and a spot where we could meet … I was kind of like the spokesman for the group. It wasn’t long after that that Fred Runco, the mayor at the time, asked me if I might be interested in running for the Village Board.
When did you become an EMT?
It wasn’t long after we actually became a real ambulance company that Southampton Hospital offered an EMT class. Basically, it was very preliminary stuff: how to treat patients for shock, if they were bleeding, hearts attacks. Then a few years later, Suffolk County offered an Advanced EMT class, so Bob Kislyak, and Pete Degironimo and myself went. We were the first three AEMTs in the village and I can remember to this day the first call we ever had after we completed the class. It was down on the Sag Harbor turnpike and we get to the call, and the patient was in cardiac arrhythmia. We called the doctor and the doctor tells us to defibrillate him. So we said okay, fine. So the other two guys go, “Ed, you do it.” And I said, “How come me?” They said, “Because you’re the electrician.”
Has the workload increased over the years for volunteers?
We do have more and more calls now but it’s the training that has become so much more intense. The hours you have to put in to become an EMT is hundreds of hours. When we started at Southampton Hospital, I think we took maybe two months of training one night a week. Now it’s two nights a week plus Sundays for six months.
What kind of calls are the most common?
Slip-and-fall is a lot of calls we get, since we have an older community. Fortunately, we don’t have that many car accidents any more. Back when I first started, we used to have a lot. Vehicles weren’t made the way they are today and also alcohol was a big problem back then.
Donations are vital, right?
We buy the ambulance from donations. The village supplies the first responder vehicle, which is the vehicle that the paid paramedic uses to answer daytime calls, but we pay for the ambulance itself and the cost of the ambulance over the years has gotten to be $225,000 or so.
What have I missed?
You know, it’s not just 40 years of service by one man. It’s just a lot of people, both on the Village Board and with the ambulance. I’ve never worked with another volunteer who wasn’t there because they wanted to help the village.