Coworkers Remember Her Pioneering 25 Years of Service
TELLURIDE – The beep of a pager trills in the night, setting into motion the community’s emergency response system. Responders abandon their beds, venturing out in all weather and conditions, to come to the rescue of someone in need.
None in the Telluride community know this routine better than Jill Masters, who has left countless meals uneaten, missed holidays with her family and worked through many sleepless nights during her 25 years on Telluride’s Emergency Medical Systems department. Masters retired this year.
“Before we knew we needed or could have paramedic level service in our small town, Jill knew and did something about it,” says Heidi Attenberger, a longtime paramedic with Telluride’s EMS department. Masters began her career in emergency services in the early 1980s, and in 1996 she and local Arleen Boyd became San Miguel County’s first paramedics. “And when we saw what she could do and how well she did it, we wanted to be like her,” Attenberger continues, speaking of the influence Masters has had over the evolution of the county’s EMS service throughout the decades.
Masters’ enthusiasm and dedication to the job paved the way for the EMS department to evolve and thrive, adds Telluride Fire Protection District Chief Paramedic Emil Sante.
“Jill changed the way the Fire District did business. She convinced them to hire the first full-time paramedic staff, creating the job I now hold. She helped write our first protocols. We all took classes from her at one time or another…Jill crafted this once ‘basic’ service into the ‘advanced life support’ effort the community enjoys today,” Sante says, recalling a phone call he received from Masters in 2000, asking him if he would consider joining the community’s new paramedic program as one of its first full-time paid paramedics. “That was the biggest change Telluride EMS had made since the first EMT class graduated here in 1973,” Sante says. “Jill Masters has done this longer than any of us, and she still makes it look easy – which, of course, it is not.”
Along with Boyd, Masters has also helped educate a new generation of EMTs and paradmedics in the region. Directly or indirectly, she inspired at least seven locals to become paramedics, Attenberger says, and was the reason she herself went to paramedic school.
When they first met, Masters was already an experienced EMT, and Attenberger was considering obtaining certification. “I don’t recall what she told me, when I pestered her with questions about the commitment I considered taking on, but I clearly remember the impression she left with me – something along the lines of ‘I want to do what she’s doing.’ Her enthusiasm for EMS was that infectious,” Attenberger says.
Although Masters is now retired, she still remains the “matriarch” of this vital community organization – at least in her coworkers’ eyes.
As Attenberger says, “She can try to retire all she wants, I’ll still call her for her advice or her opinion.”