Remembering Stanley Neely

Fri, 07/03/2009 - 2:52pm
By: Sallie Satterthwaite

[This column was published April 5, 2008.]

Less than a week ago, a couple of us were forming plans to “do” one more lunch together, as sister and brothers in a unique family. We’ve tried to do this annually, but this time we waited too long.

Peachtree City has a curious way of memorializing community leaders by naming roads, landmarks, and public buildings for people who are still alive and therefore capable of embarrassing the city. So far, I don’t believe that has happened here, but you never know.

Anyhow, quite some years ago, new fire stations were being built and baptized to meet the city’s growing population. Station 1 was easy, and its namesake was still alive: Leach Station, on Ga. Highway 74 S, for the department’s founder and first chief, M.D. “Brother” Leach.

The second station, at 105 Peachtree Pkwy.N, was named for Stanley Neely, a founder of the city’s Emergency Medical Services, who was also active in the fire department.

The third station memorialized Rev. John Weber, longtime chaplain for the department and the county’s first paramedic (then called “Advanced EMTs.”) Weber Station is on Peachtree Pkwy. S, near Braelinn Road.

By now they were short of names and asked to borrow mine – Dave’s, actually – and named the one on Hwy. 74 N, across from Kedron shopping center, Satterthwaite Station.

Our lunches were mostly sessions of mutual back-pounding, full of the legends of how much better we handled emergencies in the olden days. I’m sure there’s not another such luncheon meeting in the country, or in the world. We had become the bearers of the torch.

(I need to be sure you understand: The fire department serving Peachtree City today is light years better than what we were cobbling together 30+ years ago. New technology and a supportive populace contributed generously to make today’s department superb.

Well, as time and torches flicker, our “luncheon” began to be snuffed out. First it was Chief Leach, who lost his fight with cancer in 1983.

And now, our efforts to “do” lunch once more, while Stan could still enjoy it, came a matter of hours late. I know John and I will meet occasionally and laugh about the olden days. There will always be a twinge or two of nostalgia – and reverence – when we remember Stan.

It is not well known that Stan’s interest in fire and rescue came from the unspeakable grief he suffered when a childhood friend of his was shot and killed in a hunting accident. Stan was the shooter. No one should ever have to bear such pain.

There was always the nagging thought: Maybe he could have been saved if Peachtree City had a rescue service that could maintain life while traveling at high speeds to a hospital 25 miles away. Instead, he had to wait for a funeral home ambulance.

So. When the old Civil Defense was expanded to include Peachtree City, and first aid courses were offered, and federal money made it easy to stock equipment, we went door-to-door and business-to-business to buy and outfit a Ford EconoVan to deliver Emergency Medical Service to the patient, and the patient to a hospital. Stan threw himself into the project, seeking a kind of penitence.

Perhaps it helped ease the pain Stan felt for his friend’s death, but we logged some spectacular saves, given the rudimentary tools at hand. Several times Stan did indeed say he had made amends by helping to save a life.

Too bad the world will never see our little dramas again. We took the show on the road – to Rotary Club, say – and demonstrated exactly how someone in the room would have been saved if he had suffered a heart attack in the early ’70s.

John Doe would obligingly keel over and the EMTs in the group would leap to action, hooking up EKGs and defibrillators, and pop! John Doe would live to see another day.

Stan was a better EMT than I was; I was a better public speaker than he was. So I called the action as it went on, and Stan just looked noble, hooking up leads and oxygen lines and starting IVs.

As the county bloomed, emergency services were expanded, and we did a major share, if I may brag, of the training and fund-raising. I don’t think I ever heard Stan say no to a request, anywhere.

My part was mostly writing about what we needed or how the EMTs saved another life. I helped make the department look good.

Things have changed, times have changed. There have been plenty of disagreements along the way, mostly civil, although in the old days they got pretty heated. Newcomers may not realize that the Peachtree City Fire Department has been an essentially volunteer service trained to the same standards as the paid staff, and receive a stipend for every call they make.

Stan and I were on opposite sides of many an argument. Doesn’t matter now, does it? He put his heart into EMS when it needed him most. For a guy who ran bulldozers for a living, he developed some inspiring skills, and made a lot of neophytes believe they could save lives too.

He was just what Peachtree City and Fayette County needed when we needed him. Thanks, dear friend. Maybe we could have done it without you, but I can’t imagine how.

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Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Mon, 07/06/2009 - 7:52am.

I don't think we should ever name anything after someone who is still living. It's kind of a sign of insecurity with people worring no one will remember them when they're gone.

Wait till they're dead and make sure there aren't any bones falling out of the closet.

Vote Republican

Submitted by Bonkers on Mon, 07/06/2009 - 8:24am.

Except I have never though names of people should be used anytime!

Like anything else. half of the rest of the people will think it is wrong! And then there is the peers of the namee who knows several others should have been chosen.

It is too much of a selfish pride thing and frankly is usually incorrect. Take the Amphitheater for instance!

Certainly developers shouldn't have anything named after them---except Lenox Blocation at 54/74 might be OK.

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