BREWER, Maine — At around 11 a.m Friday a call went over the airwaves for emergency responders in the Bangor area — a final goodbye call for the state’s first nationally certified paramedic.
Emergency medical technician and paramedic Paul Knowlton, 75, who spent 40 years helping people, died Sunday from injuries suffered in a collision with a car while riding his scooter four days before.
“PK was a mentor to all of us,” the voice over the radio said, a sentiment repeated several times during his packed remembrance ceremony, held at Jeff’s Catering.
The parking lot was lined with ambulances from all over the state — Machias, Glenburn, Pleasant River, to list a few — and the crowd inside was mostly filled with uniformed people who serve with ambulance, fire and police departments in the region, as well as LifeFlight of Maine.
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“He loved caring for people,” said pastor Stan Griffin of the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Corinth, who called Knowlton a longtime friend. “He loved to work. He was a man among men.”
Knowlton grew up in New York City, living on West 77th St. and watching firetrucks go by, and he was deeply troubled by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Capt. Troy Lare of the Bangor Fire Department told the crowd.
“It was his city,” Lare said, adding later that Knowlton liked to listed to the New York City police and fire scanners’ traffic in his time off.
Lare said Knowlton had a number of nicknames, some that he couldn’t mention in public, and he loved the camaraderie with his co-workers, who were referred to as “his kids” during the ceremony.
“He was a friend to all of us here,” Lare said, recalling that Knowlton “would take in stray cats and stray paramedics.
“He had the patience of a saint. He was so good with us newer guys.”
Knowlton took his first emergency medical technician, or EMT, class while he was a student at the University of Maine just to learn about first aid, “just so he could help people,” said Ed Moreshead, who works for Capital Ambulance at the Brewer Fire Department and met him while they were both UMaine students.
Knowlton was a research assistant at the UMaine Animal Science Research Laboratory, a post he held for 18 years, where he studied dairy cattle husbandry at UMaine’s Witter Farm and dubbed the cows “the girls up at the university.”
Knowlton went on to be one of the first EMTs in the region to be trained in emergency advanced life support, and was the first certified paramedic in the state. He earned his EMT license in 1976 and began working at MEDEC and the Orono Volunteer Rescue Squad. He started at Capital Ambulance in 1991 and between 1998 and 2000 was also a paramedic for LifeFlight of Maine.
Dr. Hank Crowley, one of the many who Knowlton led into medicine, said as a trainer, Knowlton was firm, but not strict.
“He would say, ‘Don’t give up,’ and ‘Learn from your mistakes,’” Crowley recalled.
Knowlton retired in 2013 after a 37-year career, the last few years spent with Capital Ambulance, but he continued to work part-time for County Ambulance in Ellsworth, according to Thomas Read.
“He had retired full-time from Capital, but never truly stopped working,” Reed said in an email.
Reed said Knowlton was scheduled to work Sunday.
“He would call me every Sunday while he drove home from County Ambulance,” Moreshead said, his voice breaking with emotion.
“He would tell me about the calls he did with the same excitement in his voice he had 35 years ago,” his longtime friend said. “He was excited about it. It was what he loved.”
An honor guard made up of Bangor Fire Department, Maine EMS and Maine State Police Pipes and Drums, which featured two people playing bagpipes, presented the colors and performed a flag-folding ceremony to end the indoor portion of the ceremony. A LifeFlight helicopter concluded the rememberance by doing a flyover of the lined-up ambulances.
“PK will be missed by the entire EMS family statewide,” his final radio call said.