Wald Ambulance Ltd. began on November 1, 1981, when Steven Wald purchased the ambulance portion of the business from Ross Funeral and Ambulance Service at the age of twenty-one. Prior to owning the business, Steve worked for Ross and had obtained his E.M.T. training in California in 1980.
The first Wald Ambulance base was a rented garage at the Funeral Home lot, and the office was the front porch of a rented house that Marlow Ross also owned. A year to the date of purchase, Wald Ambulance was relocated to a new base, with the house where Steve lived on the same lot. Initially, we had two units whichwere included with the purchase. Only a few months into existence, a new unit was obtained.
Business was brisk, and Steve and his mother, Alice, who looked after managing the office, saw the need for a third unit. This unit was refurbished by Steve’s dad, Ernie, with Alice helping out as well. The base was added on to so the unit wouldn’t have to sit outside.
In the fall of 1984, the province’s first paramedic program was launched. Steve and his sister, Donna, who also was an E.M.T. and worked full time for her brother lobbied the government of the day for a spot in the course, as there was an intention, so we were told, that only urban based providers would be allowed into the course. After much letter writing, Steve was accepted into the program, and in the end, received a scholarship for the highest average in the class. Wald Ambulance became the first rural service to offer advanced life support, upon Steve’s graduation in the spring of 1985.
(Click here to read “Provincial Pilot Project” article)
In the fall of 1986, Donna travelled to the U.S.A. to obtain her paramedic training, as no program was offered in Saskatchewan that fall. She graduated (also with the highest average) in 1987, and Wald Ambulance then had a full time advanced life support service.
The community over the years, supported us tremendously, and a great deal of funds were raised for the purchase of equipment to go along with the skills that the emergency care providers possessed. The other very important factor was that the ambulances themselves, were always updated, and new ambulances were purchased regularly so that the staff would have the best working conditions possible to effectively render patient care.
No industry can offer excellent service without excellent staff. Over the years, we were privileged to have some of the very best employees in the profession. We are indeed thankful for the many souls who came and went over the years, many of them staying as long term members of our team.
The dedication that Steve and Alice had for the business was an important contributing factor to Wald Ambulance’s success. One of them was always on hand, and more often than not, both were present and working in the office. It was rare that either of them took a day off, and with the call volume on the rise, Alice saw the need to take her E.M.T. training in 1988. She regularly went on calls, and did many stand-by’s at sporting events. In addition to all this, her books were always balanced to the penny.
Community teaching was also important to Wald Ambulance, and this was Donna’s job. She taught CPR to the local grade 9 class for many years, as well as a great deal of community CPR teaching both in Assiniboia and in many surrounding communities. She also taught first aid, managed the continuing education program for the ambulance service, taught International Trauma Life Support, and developed and delivered the “Rural Emergency Responder Course”, prior to the existence of the First Responder course. Once this course was developed and in place, she taught many, many people the First Responder course as well in all of the communities that Wald Ambulance served.
(Click here to read “Town Hosts First Rural ACLS Course”)
Alice continued to farm alongside Ernie at Kincaid, and with the ambulance service getting busier, there was a need for her to have a response vehicle available at Kincaid. Once again, Ernie’s carpentry skills were put to work and a garage was built in Kincaid to house a suburban response vehicle. Ernie and Alice did the conversion on this vehicle as well, and if they hadn’t been so busy, probably could have started a company doing this as well…the conversion was very well done.
In 1995, Steve and Alice were approached by the community of Ponteix to provide ambulance service to Ponteix and area. The community generously offered a building and were excused from taxes. Ernie and Alice went to work and renovated the old bakery, a new ambulance was purchased, three full time employees were hired and Wald Ambulance-Ponteix came into existence.
Following this, the health districts were amalgamated, and there was no longer a local flair to the politics of operating the service. This change was the biggest and most difficult, as we were dealing with new people in a new setting, whose focus was not rural development. It was a daunting task to stay in the information loop. What was once an amicable negotiation with the Health District became a more difficult task with the Health Authority. The last seven years of operation were without a contract with Five Hills. In the end, it was the politics with the Health Authority that tipped the scale in the decision to sell the business.
Despite the difficulties with the district, we continued to have an excellent staff and great equipment, and although our call volume dropped after South Country became Five Hills, it remained adequate.
Without warning, tragedy struck.
In January of 2001, Steve died suddenly at the age of 40. Steve willed the service to Alice, and without a break to grieve the loss of her son, she bravely took the reins. With management skills that would rival any CEO, she managed the office, went on calls, did the books, dealt with the Health District, sat on the board of the newly formed Prairie Villa, participated in community events, and looked after her staff like they were her children. (Click here to read Steven Wald’s Obituary)
Her work ethic was dizzying, and she poured her heart and soul into operating the business that was her son’s dream. Now retired from farming and living in Assiniboia, Alice and Ernie renovated and moved into Steve’s house.
Ernie’s health began to fail, and he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In January, 2008, while hospitalized, he suffered a fall and fractured his hip. He developed post-operative pneumonia and died in February.
In October, 2008, the business was sold to Kathy and Cam Hutchinson, and the dream that was started in 1981 by a compassionate, intelligent, driven young man changed hands.
The legacy of Wald Ambulance remains evident in the community. Donna continues to work for the new owners’ full time as well as teach in the community and the industry. Alice remains on the board of the Prairie Villa. She also helps Donna and her husband, Darcy farm and has more time to enjoy her grandchildren’ s activities.
The memory Wald Ambulance has been honoured, and the many years of hard work recognized. The new Emergency Department at the Assiniboia Union Hospital has been named the “Steven Wald Memorial Emergency”, with the lieutenant Governor Dr. Linda Haverstock in attendance to open and dedicate the department. Also, the stage at the Prince of Wales Complex in Assiniboia has been named the “Steven Wald Memorial Stage”.
Steve (post-humusly), Donna and Alice have all received the Governor General Award for Excellence and long standing service in E.M.S. It has been a privilege to serve all of the people of our area. The support that we have known, as a family, has been tremendous. We will never forget all of the kindness that has been shown to us by Assiniboia, Ponteix, and all of the surrounding communities.
The relationship that Alice still has with her former employees speaks to the kind of “Boss” that she was. There have been many phone calls and visits and she remains in regular contact with many of them.
There is much that is unsaid, and to write it all down would prove a lengthy task. Many changes have taken place; some amusing, some uplifting, and some heartbreaking. There has been laughter, tears, soul stirring joy, satisfaction, heartfelt peace, change, difficult decisions, tragedy, loss, hugs, practical jokes, long, soul bearing talks, many, many meals shared, a sense of pride in a job well done, and faith that has remained despite all.
We do want to publicly offer our deepest gratitude to all those who played a role in the presence and support of Wald Ambulance, and we wish you all health, happiness and the blessings of the Lord, who, without a doubt, has carried us through these many changes and seasons of life.