If anyone deserves a lifetime achievement award, it is Larry Glass.

Larry retires at the end of this month after 43 years with Lawrence County’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS), more than 20 as its Director and a Medical Death Examiner. In a field that takes a physical and emotional toll and was further complicated by COVID, a four-decade career is rare.

Thankfully, the Tennessee Ambulance Service Association recognized that and presented Larry the Tommy Erwin Lifetime Achievement Award February 23 at their mid-winter conference in Gatlinburg.

The award is given to a person “whose contributions to pre-hospital care has been consistent, long-lasting, and represents a lifetime of service to the EMS profession and the public.” The award is named for Tommy Erwin, former Giles County EMS Director and a founding member of the association.

It is especially meaningful, Larry said, because the nomination and award decision were made by his peers. “I’m really proud that Michelle (Ayers, EMS Assistant Director) and my other co-workers felt I deserved to be nominated.”

Larry joined Lawrence County EMS in 1978 when it was housed in a Quonset hut on Lawrenceburg’s Franke Street and Ray Jones was Director.

He had three years of experience with the Air Force security police at Okinawa, Japan – early enlistment took him away just five days after his 1972 graduation from Loretto High School. He came home in 1975, did some college, some factory work, and started a family with Donna, his wife of now 47 years.

He was hired as a driver at Lawrence County EMS, but drivers were expected to learn lifesaving skills as soon as possible. Lawrence County paid for EMT classes, held at The Farm. In 1991 he was in the first group that earned a paramedic license through training provided by the county.

County Executive Steve Hill appointed Larry Director in 1999. “I’ve held every position at EMS,” he said, and has seen many agency-wide changes in his 43 years. They include acquisition of equipment and training that changed our EMS designation from BLS (Basic Life Support) to ALS (Advanced Life Support) with an A+ rating from the state. Ambulances are now emergency rooms on wheels, with monitors and medications used to diagnose and treat cardiac events.

He considers Lucas machines purchased with COVID recovery funds to be the best development of all. They perform CPR chest compressions with the exact amount of pressure, depth, and timing required by each patient. The hands-free system also gives EMS personnel the freedom to address other patient needs.

Lawrence County has also invested in hydraulic cot systems with each new ambulance purchased over the last few years. These patient cots raise and lower with the touch of a lever. “We’ve had no back injuries since we got them,” Larry said.

These co-workers are the most highly trained he’s ever worked with - no one has a certification below Advanced EMT. Karen Benefield, Jonathan Burnett, Kayla Brogan, Ashley Cummins, M.J. Leighton, Kim Marrs, Steve Marrs, Jerrick Patterson, Kyle Wisdom, and Michael Wright are AEMTs. Richard Bailey, Blake Barnett, Roger Chapman, Wade Marston, Chris Mobbs, Jessie Smith, and John Troup are Paramedics; Michelle Ayers, Susan Burnett, Seth Daniel, Jeremy French, Christina James, Jonita Rohling, Kane Watkins, and Caleb Workman are Critical Care Paramedics.

Larry is also retiring as a County Commissioner this year, choosing not to run for the District 6 post he held in 2010 to 2014 and 2018 to the present. It’s been a pleasure to serve his constituents, he said, and he’s proud to have been part of projects including our new college, funding for a new Loretto High School gym, and ongoing expansion of water lines in rural areas.

His plans include fishing and following his 14-year-old grandson’s South Lawrence and travel team baseball schedules. An older grandson played baseball for Loretto High; two more grandsons are toddlers with ball careers ahead of them. Larry and Donna have two daughters: Amber Fisher is a teacher at South Lawrence, Michelle Kincaid is an emergency room nurse at Maury Regional. He can also spend more time with his 91-year-old dad, Ezell Glass, who still lives in the Leoma home where Larry grew up.

Increasing EMS call volume has made a difficult job with “lots of tragedy and emotion” more stressful, he said, but he considers the profession a calling. “I’ve never wanted to leave. I’ve enjoyed my work and it has provided for me and my family. I’m grateful.”