Night is approaching........
and the temperature is dropping quickly. Alone in the woods, you have somehow become separated from your camping party. You've spent hours trying to find your way back....now you are surely lost, as well as cold, tired, hungry and frightened. You sit beneath a large tree, gathering leaves, dirt and brush around you trying to keep warm. Your thirst is overwhelming. you wonder if you will live until morning. Darkness falls. Then without warning, you see a flicker of light, hear the crashing of branches and are suddenly descended upon by a large dog wearing an orange vest bearing the word "RESCUE" Her handler is not far behind bringing food, water, first aid and your survival.
This is an annual fundraiser to help WSAR with operational expenses.
Back in 1981, when I was Captain (Team Leader) of the Wilderness Search and Rescue Team, Helen came to a team meeting with her husband Richard, who was a member of the team. After the meeting, she came up to me in her wheelchair, and said, “I know I can't go out in the woods and search for people, but I would really like to get involved with this. Is there something I can do in the search and rescue team?” I told her, “Helen, if you would like to learn how to run the radios, it would free up another member to be out in the field.” Well, Helen learned how to run the radios. In fact, she got so good at it that soon she was running base for all the Federation search teams. And she got so good at that, the Forest Rangers started having her working their radios. She got so good at that that the Rangers would wait for Helen to arrive before they would begin intensive search efforts. She was certified in wilderness first aid, and even CPR, with the assistance of her loving husband, Richard. In 1983, she was elected unanimously as Lieutenant (2nd in command) of Wilderness Search and Rescue, a position she held until 1987.
Helen was many things other than a SAR team member. She was a single mom who raised three kids from a wheelchair, after being afflicted with polio at age 21. She was a crack shot, and was the first person I knew with a concealed carry permit. Above all, she was a good and devoted friend. Now the wheelchair is gone. To us it’s empty, but to Helen, she is finally dancing with Richard, beyond the stars. To paraphrase Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, she was “one of the best and wisest people I’ve ever known.” Farewell, Lieutenant. Journey well, my friend.
Hans L. Erdman
Honorary Life Member
Wilderness Search and Rescue Team of New York State
Wilderness Search and Rescue Team is a member of NYS Federation SAR Teams
Wilderness Search and Rescue Team