I remember the ride like it was yesterday.
The Ohio River was muddy as we crossed at Cincinnati in our old Ford F-150. Our son, Greg, had recently graduated from Rio Grande University and had enrolled at Eastern Kentucky University to complete his law enforcement degree. We had about a two-hour ride to Richmond, Kentucky ahead of us.
It was the best time to be a parent. Greg was a young man, unmarried, and still dependent upon his parents to a degree before he stepped out on his own.
He graduated from Eastern 22 years ago this spring with a degree in Police Administration.
On the way back to his apartment we talked about his future plans. He said he wanted to become an investigator, and planned to pursue opportunities with the Kentucky Liquor Enforcement Division and the Fayette County (Kentucky) Coroner’s Office.
We turned down East Second Street in downtown Lexington and Greg entered the whitish, block building that housed the Coroner’s Office. He asked to meet the director, Norm Webster. Surprisingly, Mr. Webster directed him to a conference room and interviewed him.
The next day, the phone rang. It was Mr. Webster. He told Greg an employee had resigned from a deputy coroner position, and Mr. Webster offered Greg the position.
Greg’s years with the Coroner’s Office were good years. The work was difficult, but rewarding. After five years, Greg left the Coroner’s Office to return to Ohio to court his future wife, Kristen.
Greg and Kristen married, and after living in Wilmington for a time, decided to move back to Lexington. The call of the Bluegrass was strong. He accepted a position with the University of Kentucky Eye Bank, and worked there for 13 years.
Until last week.
This past Monday Greg returned to the Fayette County Coroner’s Office as a Deputy Coroner. He has come full circle.
Greg made many lasting friends and memories during his time with the Coroner’s Office. He met Mike Carr, a Lexington fireman, shortly after beginning work with the Coroner’s Office.
Mike and Greg often worked together at emergency scenes and became good friends. Mike was a bluegrass banjo picker extraordinaire. He formed a weekly jam session at Station 18, just on the outskirts of Lexington. Mike helped Greg develop his own skill on the banjo.
Mike later retired from the fire service after 26 years, and became half of the comedy bluegrass act the Moron Brothers, which has become a mainstay on the bluegrass circuit.
Mike Carr is a smart, caring man. Although he plays a simpleton in his act, like Homer and Jethro before him, it requires talent and skill to master the part of a clown.
Ironically, recently I came across an interview of the retired fireman on YouTube. Mike told a story about an auto accident he was dispatched to on old Highway 25, one early, rainy morning just before daylight.
A young man had been drinking all night in Lexington, and was headed home to a city south of town. “It was raining hard,” Mike recalled. “The clouds made the early morning feel like midnight.”
“Our alarm went off. It was six o’clock in the morning and we knew we were responding to a bad wreck. And it was,” Mike said.
“When we arrived on the scene, we saw the drunk driver didn’t make it,” Mike said. He said there was a man and woman in the other car; and the woman, six months pregnant, had been driving.
“The woman was crying, and her husband was dying. The man was unresponsive; flat lined,” Mike said.
Mike was responsible for operating the “Jaws of Life” and began to cut the woman out of the car where the steering wheel had pinned her. The paramedics were working on her husband.
As Mike was cutting away the metal, he said something came over him. He said he had an overpowering desire to pray for her. “I never prayed for anybody. I needed a lot of prayer,” he said.
“I asked her if I could pray for her,” Mike stated. Mike said for the next few minutes he wasn’t in control.
Mike knelt down in the rain and prayed. When he finished, he looked up at her and said, “Your husband is going be fine and your baby going to be fine.”
The paramedic working on the husband looked up and shook his head unfavorably at Mike.
They transported both to the hospital.
Two hours later, Mike was going home. Then the phone rang. It was the woman. She had called to tell Mike her husband was in ICU and stable, and the ultrasound showed the baby was fine. Mike said he was weak-kneed.
Four months later on Christmas Eve morning, Mike heard a knock on the firehouse door. There stood the woman next to her husband holding their baby. “A Christmas card just didn’t seem right,” the woman said. “We wanted you to see.”
Mike said he broke down.
“True story. Changed my life,” Mike said, as he wiped away a tear at the memory.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.