Tenn. EMS icon dies after 40 years of service
Hundreds mourn Ronnie Patterson, a well-known medic who touched many lives
The Knoxville News
SENTINEL, Tenn. — Ronnie Patterson, who devoted nearly 40 years to rescue and emergency medical service in East Tennessee, died Wednesday. He had just spent Christmas with his family.
"He was just a gentle giant who really cared about people," said Tim King, a flight paramedic who worked with Patterson on the first crew of the University of Tennessee Medical Center's Lifestar helicopter service. "He was the type of guy who if you hadn't seen him for five years, you could see him again and it would be like you'd just seen each other five minutes ago."
Patterson began work at age 15 as a hospital orderly in Etowah, Tenn. He graduated in 1977 from Tellico Plains High School and began work the following year for the Monroe County Ambulance Service.
Patterson graduated from the State Technical Institute of Knoxville as a paramedic in 1982. He joined the East Tennessee Ambulance Service and worked on ambulance crews in Blount County and then in Knox County. He also volunteered with the Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad.
King remembers riding on calls with Patterson, who stood about 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed more than 300 pounds.
"Ronnie could be really strong if he needed to be, and he could be really gentle when he needed to be," King said.
Patterson was part of the emergency response team for the 1982 World's Fair and was one of the first crew members of Lifestar, which made its first flight in 1984. He left in 1985 to join Rural/Metro Ambulance Service, where he spent four years as operations manager for Knox County.
"He was more of a ground medic," King said. Patterson left Rural/Metro in 1989 to work as emergency medical services coordinator for Knox County. He later worked for such ambulance services as Pro-Med and MedicOne Medical Response, where he was working as regional director for Tennessee when he died.
|McClatchy-Tribune News Service|