Richard H. Ferneau: A Life Spent Making EMT’s Work Safer & Easier

WILMINGTON, OHIO, SPETEMBER 2009 - Richard H. Ferneau, 90, of Washington Court House, Ohio, passed away on Tuesday, September 8 at Fayette Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Ferneau was born on May 19, 1919, and lived most of his life in the Fayette County area. After graduation from high school in 1937, he joined the Washington Mortuary Supply Company on a full-time basis in the office and then in the plant as Production Assistant and Plant Foreman.

During World War II, Mr. Ferneau served from 1942 to 1945 as a member of the U.S. Army in Corozal in the Isthmus of Panama. After the war, he rejoined the Washington Mortuary Supply Company where he became General Manager in 1947. He pioneered the use of aluminum tubing rather than steel to build mortuary and ambulance cots, greatly reducing the weight EMTs and Paramedics had to carry. Considered a breakthrough at the time, most ambulance builders converted to using the Ferneau cot which subsequently became the standard of the industry. He later developed and introduced the first elevating ambulance cot in 1952, which set the standard for all ambulance cots used today. He literally changed how ambulance patients were handled and transported in throughout the entire world as Ferno sells into 100 different countries.

In June of 1955, Mr. Ferneau left the Washington Mortuary Company and formed the Ferno Manufacturing Company in Staunton, Ohio. He was then joined by a partner, Elroy Bourgraf, and the company moved to Circleville, Ohio, and then to Greenfield, Ohio. In 1960, Ferno Manufacturing acquired the Washington Mortuary Company and the company named was changed to Ferno-Washington, which is now located in Wilmington, Ohio.

Over the years, Mr. Ferneau remained concerned with improving patient care and comfort as well as reducing the physical strain endured by EMT’s and Paramedics in lifting and carrying of patients. This led to the development and introduction of elevating and variable-height cots as well as roll-in mortuary and ambulance cots. The H-frame, X-frame, and Independent Leg Cots currently used throughout the world are all derived from Mr Ferneau’s designs. Other developments in Mr. Ferneau’s career were longer casket trucks and prep tables for mortuary use, and the development of the “slimline” hinge used in all folding stretchers and carrying chairs. Up until his death, he persisted in working on next –generation products, and was the owner of 16 U. S. patents.

In 1990, Richard Ferneau was awarded the National Association of Emergency Medical Technician’s highest honor, the Rocco V. Morando Lifetime Achievement Award. During this award ceremony, the following statements outlined Dick Ferneau’s contribution to the emergency industry:

“Any EMT or Paramedic who has moved a patient owes a debt of gratitude
to Mr. Ferneau for his list of contributions dating back to 1945. Richard is
an inventor, an innovator, a benefactor and a humanitarian. His influence is
felt in every EMS system in the United States and Canada, as well as 75 other
countries throughout the world.”

Mr. Ferneau was a member of American Legion Post 25 and Elks Lodge # 129. He is survived by his daughter, Susan Hamann of Granville, Ohio; a sister, Naomi (Howard) Miller of Washington Court House, and several nieces and nephews. A brother, Hubert, and a sister, Margaret (John) Davis, predeceased him.

A Celebration of His Life will be held at the Ferno facility at a later date.. Memorials can be made to The “Operation Santa” fund to provide Christmas gifts to needy children, c/o Ferno-Washington, 70 Weil Way, Wilmington, Ohio 45177, or to the charity of your choice.

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