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The Wright family legacy continues at Guilfoyle Ambulance

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A procession of ambulances, their lights shining in the rain, brought Charmaine G. Wright, CEO and president of Guilfoyle Ambulance Service, to her final resting place June 6.

Mrs. Wright, who had a keen knowledge of the city’s streets and slept with a police scanner by her bedside, was “the matriarch of the Guilfoyle family,” according to company general manager David C. Sherman.

Though her death was a tremendous blow, the company will move forward, with Bruce G. Wright, 30, one of Mrs. Wright’s three sons, taking the helm as president and CEO.

“I always wanted to do this,” Mr. Wright said. “Mom always said I got bit by the bug.”

Mr. Wright graduated from Watertown High School in 2000 and from Utica college in 2005 with a degree in health studies and management.

During his junior year, he somehow managed to fit an emergency medical technician course into a schedule as a full-time student and varsity athlete.

Since then he’s never looked back and has worked his way up from EMT to paramedic and from part-time employee to full time.

“I’ve always had the mentality that I didn’t want things to be handed to me,” Mr. Wright said.

In his new position, Mr. Wright will continue to work closely with his two brothers, Toby and Travis, who also work for Guilfoyle.

Travis, the youngest of the three, is an EMT now and will be starting a paramedic program in the fall.

Toby enjoys the patient care and the operations aspects of the business, Bruce Wright said.

“He likes to be out there where the rubber meets the road,” he said.

There’s no doubt that Guilfoyle Ambulance has a strong association with the Wright name, but the family ethos of the company extends beyond the bloodline.

The demands of the job, which can make every day an emotional roller coaster, also foster camaraderie and a family atmosphere at the company, Mr. Wright said.

It was something that Mrs. Wright and her employees took literally. Mrs. Wright, who knew everyone’s names and could recognize and identify individual voices on the scanner, was referred to as “Mom” by her employees.

James F. Deavers, a Guilfoyle employee and former director of Lewis County Search and Rescue, said Mrs. Wright would often refer to him as her “oldest kid.”

“I would say, ‘Charmaine, you’ve got some explaining to do. I’m only a year younger than you. It must have been an immaculate conception,’” he said.

“She was a real personal friend of mine and I miss her,” Mr. Deavers said.

Justin J. Barbarito, an EMT who has been with the company for two years, said: “She loved us all as family. She was very nice, very sweet. She always had a smile on her face whether she was having a good day or bad.”

Mrs. Wright had been involved with Guilfoyle since 1971, when a partner in the company, Bernard E. Pooler, invited her to accompany him on a run to Syracuse.

Two years later, Bruce M. Wright, who bought a percentage of the company after returning home from service in Vietnam, took control when Mr. Pooler sold his interest.

A few years after that, he married the former Charmaine Grey, one of his employees. Mr. Wright died suddenly on Nov. 12, 1993.

Since then, the Wright family consistently has expanded the company, spurred on by federal contracts to provide ambulance services to Fort Drum and by continued growth in Jefferson County.

Today the ambulance service employs 120 people and has a fleet of 26 vehicles, including 14 ambulances and five wheelchair vans.

It recently moved from its cramped headquarters on Newell Street to a remodeled and modernized structure on Faichney Drive.

Over the years, the Wright family — especially Mrs. Wright — has changed the face of emergency medicine in Jefferson County.

“Charmaine is a loss not just to Guilfoyle but to the whole county,” said Charles F. Brenon III, director of Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services. “She was an EMS pioneer. Her loss is a blow to the whole system. We will do whatever we can to support the family in this difficult time and look forward to many more years of continued service.”

A week after the funeral, on a sun-drenched Friday afternoon, the ambulances from the procession were staged in the shade of the company’s garage, awaiting the next call.

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