Craig Diehl was a good guy, said those who knew him well.
"He was very thoughtful and considerate. He was the heart and soul of AMED," said attorney Thomas Farrell, a longtime friend and AMED board member. "He took AMED from its beginning to where it is today. It went from a very small service, and now AMED is essentially countywide, and that was all through Craig."
Philip "Craig" Diehl, 61, Altoona, died Monday at UPMC Altoona after a brief illness.
Diehl was the first executive director of AMED, appointed to the position in 1981.
He began his career in January 1975 with AMED as a paramedic when it was a department within Altoona Hospital.
During his tenure as executive director, AMED grew from one station serving the City of Altoona and Logan Township to five stations now serving 21 municipalities.
"He turned what was two or three ambulances into five substations like it is now," said Dick DiAndrea, AMED board treasurer, who had known Diehl for 35 years.
Diehl knew just about everybody, DiAndrea said.
"When he walked into a room at a restaurant, it took him 15 minutes to get to his table. He had to greet everybody. He always had a kind word for everybody," DiAndrea said. "He was an absolute delight to work with."
Gary Watters, who succeeded Diehl as executive director, was hired by Diehl in 1985.
"He was a very nice, even-mannered individual. He was very personable. He knew a lot of people in Altoona. He was very passionate; he cared about people," Watters said.
Diehl liked to play golf and had many friends at Park Hills Country Club, said Steve Sheetz, Family Council chairman of Sheetz Inc.
"He was like the rest of us. He had his good days and his bad days. He was a lot of fun, a good guy to be around," Sheetz said.
"At one time, he had a single digit handicap. He was a good golfer, but he hadn't played much lately," Tim Pheasant said. "Whether he would shoot a 75 or a 95, his demeanor didn't change. He always had a smile on his face."
Greg Michelone of Hollidaysburg teamed with Diehl in many tournaments over the years.
"Craig was a fun loving, kind guy. He was a lot of fun to play golf with; he always put you at ease," Michelone said. "He would put the round of golf in perspective. It was friendly golf, but he was a competitor and wanted to win."
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, 806 11th St. Committal will be at the convenience of the family.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.