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Longtime AMED board member Hess dies at 82

When Eric Hess was about 20, his car hit an engine that had fallen off a flatbed truck on a road in Maryland, while returning from Ocean City.

Hess did what was natural for him — he called his father, Ray, who drove down from Altoona, got Eric a hotel room, arranged for the car to be towed to a garage, drove Eric back to college in western Pennsylvania, then drove him back the following week to pick up the repaired vehicle.

Ray Hess, who died last week at 82, also helped Altoona a half a century ago when the city was in need of better ambulance services — which until then consisted of rides to the hospital in ambulances provided by tow truck operators, with no medical care along the way.

Hess was part of a City Council-appointed committee whose work led to the creation of AMED in 1968; he was a member of the board of Altoona Hospital, which subsequently ran AMED; he was a charter member of the AMED board when it became a municipal authority in 1980; and he was recently reappointed for another term on the AMED board by Logan Township supervisors, according to AMED Executive Director Gary Watters.

Hess remained involved in the oversight of AMED for nearly 55 years.

Before AMED, tow truck operators would compete for patients, getting into fistfights with one another at accident scenes, according to AMED officials, including board member Tom Farrell.

An incident in Altoona provided the ultimate impetus for creation of the committee, according to Watters.

Two tow truck operators contended for a patient at an accident scene. One prevailed and headed to the hospital but crashed. The other came, took the original patient but refused to take his rival driver, Watters and Farrell said.

Apparently, that was “the icing on the cake,” Watters said.

Nowadays, ambulance services employ certified paramedics and emergency medical technicians and their vehicles are equipped with lots of medical equipment.

AMED provides services not just to the city and its immediate surroundings, but to a large swath of Blair County.

“Ray was extremely proud of what AMED has become,” said Jordan Settle, the organization’s new board chairman.

Hess made a career as a banker.

He started as a teller in 1959 at First National, moved to the trust department in 1960 and worked his way up, retiring as senior vice president from Mid-State, a successor bank, according to a family member.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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