Thousands mourn Paramedics

A ceremony to commemorate the 37 combined years of service of two Tofino paramedics who died in Kennedy Lake.

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November 07, 2010 at 2:56 PM

Thousands mourn B.C. paramedics

Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka died when their ambulance plunged into lake

Postmedia News November 7, 2010

A ceremony to commemorate the 37 combined years of service of two Tofino paramedics who died in Kennedy Lake took over the community's streets Saturday, almost doubling the town's population.

Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka died Oct. 19 when the ambulance they were in plunged into the lake.

As mourners gathered in a tent, Fuller and Polivka's service boots were brought in, resting on a pair of pillows, and put on the stage in front of about 2,500 people.

Fuller's daughters, Jamie and Lindsey Fuller, expressed appreciation for the support the community has shown to "an exceptional woman, wife, sister, mother and grandmother."

"Being a paramedic was more than a job to her," Jamie Fuller said before the procession began outside the Wickaninnish Community School.

"It was a way of life, a calling."

The procession was led by two B.C. Ambulance Service vehicles -- including the replacement for the one Fuller and Polivka were in -- followed by the Vancouver Police Pipe Band, emergency medical service honour guards, Canadian Forces and RCMP.

"It was a very huge impact on our profession, not only nationally but internationally, and, in moments likes this, we see all services come together to support each other," said Andrew Fenton, Ottawa's superintendent of operations for paramedics.

"We work shoulder to shoulder with the firemen and police day by day and it means a lot to paramedics to see their support," said Fenton.

After the procession, the memorial began with Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members Elmer Frank and Moses Martin leading a prayer.

"[This] will never go unrecognized or unnoticed," Frank said. "They did a lot for us, a lot for the First Nations in the central region.

"They saved a lot of our lives. They saved a lot of our people."

B.C.'s minister of health services, Kevin Falcon, extended condolences to family, friends and community.

"They both brought many years of skills, honour and commitment . . . and both will be greatly missed," Falcon said.

Tofino Mayor John Fraser also spoke to the crowd.

"Jo-Ann and Ivan were such an important part of the community," Fraser said as his eyes welled with tears, adding that the pair were exemplary role models and were always smiling.

Fuller and Polivka each had someone speak on their behalf.

Fuller's brother Bob Hansen shared some of his memories of his sister, who would have turned 60 on Nov. 10.

"I knew Jo-Ann for a few days short of 60 years," he said, noting that from her earliest moments in life it was evident she would walk her own path.

He told how she rescued him from a swelling river when they were young and how she found a kindred spirit in her husband, Brian.

Fuller, who served 23 years with the BCAS in Tofino, was survived by her husband, three daughters and a 10-month-old grandson.

Polivka's son Fred Webber spoke about how his stepfather was an activist, comedian, artist and a "unique, special man."

He recounted how Polivka's individuality drove him to emigrate from communist Czechoslovakia in 1989 to Canada.

Webber talked about how the 65-year-old was just short of retirement and was planning to go to his cabin on Lake LaBerge in the Yukon.

"[He also had] a Jenny Lake cabin he built himself," he said. "The day he completed his cabin . . . he found a moose on the roof."

The memorial ended with a photo display of the two as sounds of muffled sobbing emanated from the crowd.

The last shot was of a paramedic's back, looking at the piece of Highway 4 beside Kennedy Lake where Polivka and Fuller died. As the image was displayed, the sound of a voice from a walkie-talkie announced "136K1 is 10-7."

Fuller and Polivka's Tofino station was 136. 10-7 means off the air or unable to respond.
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