NMMC Honors First Ambulance Director
TUPELO, Mississippi— North Mississippi Medical Center-Tupelo’s first ambulance director Bill Mears now has a permanent presence in the hospital’s Emergency Response Center.
With the 94-year-old Saltillo resident, his family and friends on hand, North Mississippi Ground Ambulance Emergency Medical Services Director Dennis Hebner unveiled two plaques Wednesday during an event outside the NMMC Emergency Response Center. One plaque was given to the Mears family. The second plaque will hang in the Emergency Response Center.
“Mr. Mears helped create an enduring legacy for the NMMC ambulance service,” Hebner said. “While the technology and the tools have changed since 1968, our dedication to responding to medical emergencies quickly with compassion and professionalism has not.”
Mears, a Lee County native and Korean War veteran, returned home in 1967 after a 21-year career as an Air Force medic. He was joined the NMMC staff to create an ambulance service.
Up to that point, two funeral homes handled patient transportation, but changes to wage and hour laws made the practice cost-prohibitive, according to a 1968 Daily Journal article. The Lee County Board of Supervisors and the Tupelo Board of Aldermen had turned to the hospital as the organization most able to operate an ambulance service efficiently.
To prepare for the service, the new ambulance staff went through a range of training including good grooming and human relations, first aid, traffic safety, emergency childbirth, management of disturbed and unruly patients, and use of oxygen equipment and portable resuscitator, according to the newspaper article. They went through practice sessions in Jackson and Memphis.
Mears remained with the hospital for several years. In 1974, he joined the staff of the newly opened FMC plant near his Saltillo home, where he served as medic and assisted with health insurance, until he retired in 1989.
Mears and his wife, Helen, will celebrate their 70th anniversary in December. They have two children, Tony Mears and Marilee Jaggars, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is part of a morning coffee group that meets regularly at Faith Baptist Church in Saltillo. Members of that group joined the family at Wednesday’s recognition.
“We’re very proud of all he accomplished,” Jaggars said of her father.