Geneva man looks back on 40 years as an EMT, referee

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

GENEVA — The life of an emergency medical technician is one that requires hard work and dedication. Longtime EMT Garry Gordinier of Geneva applies this steadfast commitment not only to his work in emergency services but also to his role as a referee.

Gordinier, 73, grew up in Mount Sterling, Wisconsin, and graduated from North Crawford High School in 1968. As a student he played basketball, baseball, football and ran track. Gordinier’s parents instilled in him the value of hard work at a young age.

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“If you borrow something from somebody and you give it back, it needs to be in better condition than when you got it,” Gordinier recalled his parents saying. Additionally, “When you have a job, don’t care if it’s the worst job in the world, you go there and you do the best you can, always. And that’s what I’ve tried to instill in my kids.”

After studying at University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire, Gordinier went into banking. Out of all the places he has lived, he has been in Geneva the longest, being president of Commerce Bank for 23 years until his retirement three years ago. He said that he likes the small town life and has met a lot of “really nice folks.” He also finds it amusing that his role as a banker has had an effect on other parts of his life.

“I’m treasurer for the church, treasurer for the ambulance … that’s kind of a given,” he said. “If you’re a bank employee, you’re automatically the treasurer.”

During his down time working at the bank, Gordinier decided he wanted to work in emergency medical services. The process of becoming certified in Wisconsin required him to take a 120-hour course followed by passing a national test. He now has over 40 years experience in emergency services.

Gordinier said that it is not easy being a volunteer first responder; he had to grow accustomed to the time commitment and learn to remain level-headed during intense situations. He had to sacrifice a lot of time with his family and friends to help people who needed care in precarious situations.

The help he was able to give the people in the community, along with the camaraderie he had with other EMTs, made the time he spent worthwhile.

Gordinier said his favorite part of being an EMT is “being able to help people when they’re having a bad day.”

Once and a while, however, he said he was able to go on a “fun call.” While in Rushford, he had the opportunity to help with the delivery of two babies. He explained that in emergency services, he has what they call “two stork wings.” During both births, he said that he felt panicked, but everyone got through it.

Gordinier said that there are not a lot of volunteer EMTs in Geneva right now.

“It’s a big commitment,” he said. “That’s why we’re having a hard time getting volunteers. We’re down to like six crew members right now.”

Gordinier describes the people he works with as “a really good crew,” and appreciates how they are able to do their work well even with limited staff.
Gordinier said he hopes more young people get involved in emergency services.

“Right now, we’ve got one young person, he’s a senior in high school. He’s doing the training right now,” he said. The EMS crew try to take prospective EMTs on ride-alongs to see if it is something they are able and willing to do.

“People… think they can do it, and then you get on these codes or some of these full cardiac arrests and you get done and you go, ‘I don’t want any more of this,’” Gordinier said.

His advice to people interested in becoming a first responder is to make sure that they can handle the situations and be able to make themselves available.

He plans to retire from emergency services in 2025.

Not only does Gordinier have decades of experience as an EMT, he also has about an equal amount of experience as a referee for youth sports. He has officiated basketball and baseball games for 40 years, being a certified referee for 37 of those years. Currently he works to fill in for other referees if they are unable to come to a game.

Similar to his job as an EMT, it is difficult to get people to volunteer their time to be a referee and umpire, so Gordinier normally has a lot of work. His usual games are seventh and eighth grade and junior varsity in Albert Lea.

Gordinier said his favorite part about being a referee is the relationships he built with coaches in the area. He also enjoys seeing students go from novices in their sport to accomplished athletes as they get older. He has no intention of retiring from this role any time soon.

“As long as I can still feel good and get up and down on the floor and stuff, I want to keep going as long as I can,” he said.

When not working as an EMT or ref, Gordinier enjoys spending time with his family and doing outdoor hobbies. He has two adult daughters who live in Geneva and three other grown children, a son and two more daughters, who live out of town. Gordinier enjoys hunting deer and turkeys. He also enjoys fishing, both on the water and on the ice when he is able to. He has a boat and considers himself an avid trout fisherman. His favorite spots in the area are Beaver Lake, St. Olaf Lake and Roberts Lake.