The life of Brigitte Heller, who was Washington County’s emergency medical services director, was celebrated on Tuesday with a long procession and a heartfelt memorial service.
Heller died June 28 of injuries she suffered in a traffic accident two weeks earlier near Easton, Md. Heller’s daughter, Brittany, survived the crash.
Hundreds of people filled Hagerstown Community College’s Athletic, Recreation, and Community Center on Tuesday for tributes from several people who knew Heller well through her emergency services work.
Kevin Lewis, the director of the county Division of Emergency Services, said Heller was devoted to her family, her work and her teaching.
“We were her second family,” he said to rows of emergency workers.
“We’ve lost an EMS champion,” said Dr. Richard Alcorta, the medical director in the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System.
Some speakers described Heller as firm, strict and straightforward, but only because she pursued the highest standards.
“She never, ever accepted mediocrity in EMS,” said Melanie Shank, a paramedic in county emergency services.
Underneath, Heller had a kind heart and was a supportive friend, speakers said.
Shank called Heller a statistical “Rain Man” for EMS knowledge, referring to the savant portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the popular 1988 movie.
Heller, 51, of Boonsboro, was the Washington County Division of Emergency Services EMS coordinator for six years, according to her obituary.
She was the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System Region II Advisory Council president and volunteered with several local fire and EMS companies for more than 30 years.
Before the ceremony, firefighters and EMS personnel, some wearing their dress-blue uniforms in 90-degree heat, offered a last salute as a procession of emergency services vehicles passed by.
Maeghan Lois, an emergency medical technician with the Boonsboro Ambulance and Rescue Service, an organization Heller helped establish in the mid-1980s, said Heller trained her and a majority of the EMTs in Washington County.
“She was very dedicated to the (Washington County) Fire and Rescue Association,” Lois said., “She was always there for us if we needed her.”
Lois, who was not scheduled to work on Tuesday, wore a black dress to honor Heller.
Boonsboro firefighters and EMS workers saluted the vehicles as they drove down Alternate U.S. 40. A black curtain draped over the ladder of a fire truck was extended high above the roadway. Many firefighters wore a black stripe across their badges to show they were in mourning.
“We’re here to show our respect,” said Pat Warner, a firefighter and EMT with the First Hose Co. of Boonsboro. “... She loved her job. She dedicated her heart and soul into this job. Every EMT in this county — every one of them went through Brigitte. She will be missed.”
Show of respect
In Halfway, members of the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway did much the same thing as their counterparts in Boonsboro.
They snapped to attention as the procession passed down Halfway Boulevard. In the distance, flags were at half staff, and black wreaths could be seen hanging above the bay doors at Washington County Emergency Station 25 on York Road.