TULALIP — Acts of courage and selfless service were to be recognized Thursday at the 2018 American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast. The annual event, at Tulalip Resort Casino, helps support the Red Cross serving Snohomish County.
Water Rescue: Mike Faddis, Kay Ditzenberger, Josh Ditzenberger
On a chilly June morning at Blackmans Lake, three people tried their hardest to save a life.
A fisherman who was plunged into the water when a boat flipped June 1 died more than two weeks later. Kay Ditzenberger, who lives at the Snohomish lake and was involved in the rescue, now hopes to memorialize the man with a plaque and a life jacket awareness effort.
Friends Greg Posey and Larry Higbee had a fish on the line. When they leaned too far with a net, their boat capsized. Posey recalled that Higbee, 75, was in the water at the back of the boat while he was across its bow. Neither man wore a life jacket.
They hoped to make it to shore. After a few minutes swimming, Posey called to Higbee but heard no reply. Heading to the back of the boat, Posey saw his friend about a foot under water.
That’s when Kay Ditzenberger and her adult son, Josh Ditzenberger, heard a call for help. Josh got on his paddleboard. His mother jumped into their paddle boat. Neighbor Mike Faddis grabbed a life jacket and started rowing his pontoon.
Kay got to the men first, but had no rope, no life ring, nor any rescue training. Josh was suddenly there with the paddleboard. “We stuck the board behind Larry’s neck,” Posey recalled, describing how they worked together to support his friend.
Then came Faddis, who yelled that they should push Higbee to shore as fast as possible. “So I paddled, Mike pushed, Josh held on,” Kay said. Posey held onto her boat. Her son kept Higbee’s head above water.
Medics were there when they made it to a dock. A crew from Fire District 4 had responded to a 911 call.
Higbee, who was taken to a hospital with hypothermia, was obviously cold but was joking and “seemed to be in a good place when they wheeled him out of here,” Kay said.
Yet the Everett man never recovered. An Army veteran and retired state employee who worked in child and adult protective services, Higbee died June 16.
“Larry was quite an uncelebrated hero,” Kay said. “He helped seniors. He was a sweet, humble guy out on a fishing trip with his buddy.”
She plans to get some life-saving training. “And we’d like to put up a plaque in Larry’s honor at the boat launch,” she said. The plaque may list others who have drowned on the lake, and a plea: “Please wear your life jacket.”
Workplace Rescue: Jeff Kelsey
For Boeing worker John Davis, July 6 was just another day — until it wasn’t. He was eating in the cafeteria at the company’s Everett plant when a piece of meat became lodged in his throat.
At first not too worried, he suddenly couldn’t breathe.
“I looked at John and he kind of looked like he was in distress,” said Jeff Kelsey, Davis’ co-worker.
Davis recalled Kelsey standing up and asking if he was all right. The choking man signaled that he wasn’t.
Kelsey, who works in 787 interior engineering, turned Davis around. Grasping his hands together, Kelsey brought them up and under Davis’ ribcage. The pressure wasn’t enough to dislodge the food, and Davis was turning blue.
“What was I thinking?” Davis recalled. “Am I going to see my family again?”
When four thrusts didn’t work, Kelsey put all his weight into the effort and picked Davis up off the ground. It was the right thing, as the fifth thrust was successful.
Davis said that after the food was dislodged, Kelsey walked him outside and stayed to see that he’d fully recovered his breathing.
Kelsey knew what to do. He, Davis and many of their co-workers have taken Red Cross CPR and first aid training at work. “I would highly suggest taking it. You never know,” Kelsey said.
“His fast-acting accomplishments saved my life,” Davis said.
Crisis Intervention Rescue: Jon Caban, Pat Arpin
Pat Arpin, the Bellevue Police Department’s assistant chief, was off duty when something caught his eye as he drove along the Bothell-Everett Highway.
Someone — the person looked to be a teen — was sitting on the railing of an overpass, legs dangling over the roadway side. Arpin believed the young person was suicidal, and intended to jump into traffic below.
Arpin got out of his car, carefully approached, and asked “Hey, are you OK? Can I help you?”
“She just said no,” he recalled. As the two talked, Bothell police detective Jon Caban stopped in an unmarked patrol car.
Caban had seen the person on the railing and the man kneeling nearby, talking. He thought perhaps both were planning to jump. He got out of his car and stopped traffic in both lanes of the overpass.
Both men, trained for such a situation, knew if they startled her she could jump, fall or even take them with her.
Arpin was able to distract her as he moved up to the point where he could hug her and quickly pull her back. As Arpin pulled the young woman back and onto the ground, Caban said he put his body over them “so they couldn’t get back up if they wanted to jump.”
Not arrested, the young woman was taken to a hospital for mental health help.
It’s possible Arpin and Caban saved a life, maybe more than one.
“If someone were to jump off of that, obviously if they hit a car below that could cause some major damage and maybe another fatality down below,” Caban said.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Ken Gaydos
Ken Gaydos stepped into the worst moments of people’s lives. He began to walk with them through tragedies — fires, drownings and crimes.
A volunteer chaplain with the Edmonds police and fire departments since 1973, Gaydos was the founder of Support 7. The Edmonds-based nonprofit, a corps of volunteer nondenominational chaplains working with police and fire agencies in south Snohomish County, became a model for similar programs around the state, country and world.
Gaydos died in September at age 79.
“To have someone who has the ability — the care, the love, the training, the expertise — that my dad had, I honestly think he was probably one of the best in the world at this,” said Tim Gaydos, Ken’s son.
For more than 40 years, Gaydos was there to hold a hand, say a prayer, or simply be present for those whose lives had shattered. He transformed the role of a chaplain from one that was largely ceremonial to a ministry that met spiritual, emotional and physical needs.
Tim Gaydos said his father helped start chaplaincy programs on every continent except Antarctica.
Through Support 7, which started in the mid-1980s, a van or RV was dispatched to tragic events.
“We’ve got bags of stuffed animals and goodies for kids. It’s so nice to give them something, knowing they might have just lost everything,” said Michele Lundgren, a Support 7 volunteer.
“It’s incredible to think about the legacy that he had — and has,” Tim Gaydos said.
Good Samaritan Award: Joseph Klingman
Joseph Klingman is a detective with the Everett Police Department, but one day earlier this year he was working off duty at a local store.
While watching a camera at a Fred Meyer, he saw a commotion at the customer service desk. A little boy had fallen from a cart, hitting his head on the floor. Frantic, the child’s mother had run to customer service carrying her injured toddler. His lips were blue. Klingman sprinted to help.
He saw that the boy had vomited and was suffering a seizure. As a police detective trained in first aid and CPR, he knew that when someone is unconscious and vomits there’s a risk of an airway being blocked. He checked the boy’s airway, made sure the child was breathing, and prepared to do CPR.
Medics arrived and rushed the toddler to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, where he recovered.
The outcome could have been tragic. “There would be people there that never would have been able to forgive themselves for not taking the time to learn what to do,” Klingman said.
CPR Rescue: Lucas Hill
Bus driver Lucas Hill was at the wheel in the Bellingham area March 2 when a passenger alerted him to another rider’s medical emergency. A man was slumped in his seat and appeared to be unconscious.
Hill, a Whatcom Transit Authority driver, pulled the bus off the road. Checking the man, he saw he wasn’t breathing. An on-board camera captured how he saved the man’s life.
Hill asked a passenger to call 911, called in the emergency on his radio, then began performing compressions — as he’d been trained in a CPR refresher session just the night before.
“I didn’t have to dig into my memory to really think about what I should be doing,” said Hill, who worked on the man several minutes until medics arrived and took over.
The next day, the man called Hill from his hospital bed to express thanks that his driver turned out to be a life-saver.
At home after the incident, Hill wondered what he could have done better. “But to hear that he made it was really awesome,” Hill said.
Zach Cook, a supervisor with the transit authority, said it was serendipitous “for the patient, for Lucas and us as an agency that he was trained and ready to go.”
Dedication to Fire Safety: Jim Grieco
Jim Grieco served 30 years with Snohomish County Fire District 1, including 14 years as a captain. After retiring in 2016, he didn’t stop helping.
Chuck Morrison, then executive director of the American Red Cross in Snohomish County, asked Grieco to become co-lead with the agency’s Home Fire Campaign. Its efforts include installing smoke alarms, educating people about fire prevention, and helping create escape plans — all with the aim of significantly reducing home fire deaths and injuries.
Through Grieco’s community connections, those with the program gained access to high-risk locales, among them mobile home parks. “He did a great job of getting us out,” said Morrison, adding that the program could make an entire neighborhood safer by serving 50 to 75 homes in an afternoon.
“Things just took off,” Grieco said. Locally, smoke alarm installations climbed beyond national Red Cross expectations, he said. “I’m so happy to be part of that,” Grieco said.
Morrison said there’s no doubt Grieco has saved lives, both through his professional career and his Red Cross volunteerism.
Clare Waite Humanitarian Award: Chuck Morrison
When Chuck Morrison came to the American Red Cross’ Snohomish County Chapter more than 14 years ago, the job was an interim stint.
He had headed the Everett Community College Foundation, which raises money for scholarships and other campus needs. The Red Cross board of trustees was seeking someone to bring financial stability to the agency, and to boost morale and the number of volunteers.
Morrison, who retired in July, became executive director of the local Red Cross. Under his leadership, the agency rebounded financially. The number of volunteers increased into the hundreds. And after disasters near and far — Hurricane Katrina, the Oso mudslide, local house fires and many more — the Red Cross has sent its helpers.
Morrison is the 2018 recipient of the Red Cross’ Clare Waite Humanitarian Award. It’s named in honor of an Edmonds woman who worked for the agency until age 88 helping with the Project Pride energy assistance program.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.