National expert on emergency medical training — a man ‘big as life itself’ — dies at 58

— From Richard Beebe’s Facebook page

“He had the most wonderful smile,” said a colleague of Richard Beebe.

GUILDERLAND —Richard Beebe had a wide and profound effect on the field of emergency medical training locally and nationally, said his colleagues. He also always let his family know, said his wife, how deeply loved they were. Mr. Beebe died on Sunday, June 5, 2016, of injuries sustained in a motorcyle accident a week-and-a-half earlier. He was 58.

“He was as big as life itself,” said a colleague at the National Association of EMS Educators.

Mr. Beebe was especially proud, according to his wife, Laura Beebe, of his training as a registered nurse. He was one of the first men to graduate from the daytime class at Russell Sage College, she said. Being a nurse informed all of his work as a paramedic, she said; he believed that it was important to be supportive and caring while dealing with people in traumatic situations. He had a calming presence, she said.

The other important element in his approach, she said, was treating the whole person and looking carefully at the entire situation for clues that might reveal crucial information.

Mr. and Mrs. Beebe were married for 38 years.

When they first met, as criminal justice majors at the Rochester Institute of Technology, he was dating a friend of hers. Then they broke up, “and we were mad at him.” Later he asked her out, but he needed to ask several times, over some time, before she — and her friend — decided that she should say yes.

Early in their married life, she said, he was working as a nurse and wanted to keep volunteering in rescue-squad work even after they learned that Mrs. Beebe was expecting twins. She was in law school at the time and worried that she would need to quit school, since they would not be able to afford care for two children — and law school tuition — on one salary.

“But he wouldn’t hear of it,” she said.

“He was the kind of person who was determined to do something and would find a way to do it,” she said. He started a cooperative child-care arrangement among himself and the women of the rescue squad, in which one member of the group would stay behind throughout a shift and care for the others’ children. “It was an awesome idea back then,” Mrs. Beebe said.

Mr. Beebe was a lifetime member of the volunteer Western Turnpike Rescue Squad. He worked for almost 30 years as a paramedic with the Guilderland Police Department’s paramedic division — first as a volunteer, and then, for more than 25 years, as a part-timer.

Jay Tyler, senior paramedic supervisor for the town of Guilderland, said, “It’s a really sad day. We were all hoping that Rich was going to pull through.”

Mr. Beebe taught paramedics and paramedic instructors — “He trained the trainers,” said a colleague — for many years, including at Vermont Technical College, Albany Medical College, and, for a time, at Bassett Healthcare. He was the associate director of education for Mohawk Ambulance Service. He wrote a number of textbooks for paramedics.

He was also on the board of directors of the National Association of EMS Educators.

He created his own company, Medic Think, as an umbrella organization for all of his work as an independent contractor.

Close friend and fellow EMS instructor Mike McEvoy said that Beebe “influenced literally thousands and thousands of students all around the Capital District area, and then he took his knowledge and expertise to a national level and became a very well-regarded instructor at conferences around the country.”

Many graduates of his programs, McEvoy said, actually refer to themselves as “Beebe-medics,” meaning that they are proud to embrace his philosophy of thinking critically about each medical situation. “You can either be a medic who studies from a textbook and then does things like ‘1, 2, 3,’ or you can think critically and say, ‘Maybe this situation doesn’t really follow the rules; maybe I need to so something differently,’” McEvoy said.

Beebe continued to work as a paramedic, McEvoy said, because he believed that people who were teaching should not only be educated and passionate, but should also be working in the field.

Mrs. Beebe echoed this idea, explaining that he thought that, if you were going to teach, you needed “to walk the walk” and stay current on issues related to EMS, including patient care.

Executive Director of the National Association of EMS Educators Joann Freel said, “I think we’re all still in shock over Richard’s untimely death. He leaves a voice in EMS education, not just in New York State, but for the U.S. and Canada.

“He was as big as life itself,” said Freel, and “he always had that wonderful smile on his face.”

Freel said of Beebe’s teaching style, “He was absolutely not a lecturer, not the image of ‘the sage on the stage.’ He was dynamic; he made it come to life. If you were one of the educators that he was training, you felt that spark, that passion for EMS that he transmitted to others.”

Mrs. Beebe added, “He would look at people’s reactions. If someone was puzzled or lost, he would bring it around to be helpful. He was never one to put anyone on the spot; he just wanted everybody to be involved.”

Mr. Beebe was born in Binghamton on June 25, 1957. He was raised on and off by his grandparents, Macel and Frances Beebe, who then took over his care full-time for a while after his father, Richard W. Beebe Sr. — who was career military and a Green Beret — was killed in Vietnam, said his wife. “They were essentially my in-laws,” Mrs. Beebe said of his grandparents.

Because his own early life involved a good deal of instability, Mrs. Beebe said, stability was very important to her husband as an adult. “It was very important to him to have a home, and he insisted that we buy our home before we had children.” Indeed, she said, they have been in their current Guilderland home for “at least 34 years.”

He didn’t really have any hobbies, said his wife. What he did in his leisure time was “volunteer for EMS.”

But he did support her hobbies. She said that on the weekends he often went with her on her trips to a local gym to do rock climbing. He did the belaying — holding and controlling the rope — for her. Belaying keeps the rock climber from falling very far.

He wasn’t in good enough shape to rock climb any more, said his daughter Amanda Beebe McLean. But he would take her mother to do it once a week “because it was important to her.”

When she was a child, Mrs. Beebe McLean said, “He was an outdoorsy guy. We went kayaking and canoeing and rock climbing. He got me into rock climbing; he used to belay me.”

She described him as “always the embarrassing dad” and said that he was “always showing his love in what he thought were hysterical ways.”

As examples, she cited her first date ever, when she was “maybe 13.” As she and her date emerged from the theater where they had just seen a movie, her father had a friend of his — a Guilderland police officer — approach them and ask the young man about his intentions.

“He was terrified,” she recalled of her date.

Another time, she was walking on the street with a friend from school, and it happened to be her birthday. Her father drove by slowly in an ambulance and got on the loudspeaker, she said, to sing her “Happy Birthday.”

“He was my hero growing up; he was just the best dad,” she said. “He had an incredible insight into the human condition.”

Colleague McEvoy, who often worked closely with Beebe, said, “I’m crushed by his absence.”

He added, “The folks who he affected — the many people he touched — need to keep that alive and say, ‘This man reached out and changed my life, how can I bring that forward and continue to bring other people into the profession?’”


Richard Beebe is survived by his wife, Laura Beebe (née Oakley), and by their twin daughters, Heather Beebe and Amanda Beebe McLean, and his son-in-law Mark McLean. He is also survived by his mother-in-law, Geraldine Oakley; brother-in-law David Oakley and his wife, Dianna Masto; and two sisters-in-law, Claire Oakley and her husband, Bruce Wendt; and Rachel Oakley Shiung and her husband, David.  

His father, Richard W. Beebe Sr., and his grandparents, Macel and Frances Beebe, died before him.

A funeral service will be held on Saturday, June 11, at 1 p.m. at the auditorium of Guilderland High School at 8 School Road, Guilderland Center. It is being arranged by DeMarco-Stone Funeral Home, but is anticipated to draw too large a crowd for the funeral home itself.

The service will be followed by a reception at the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad, 200 Centre Dr., Albany, off Western Avenue in Guilderland.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad, or to the American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society.

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