Good afternoon. On behalf of the board of directors of the Renaissance Program, I would like to welcome you and thank you for coming today.
For the past few years Renaissance has honored local citizens who have given much to our community. And today we are honored to recognize an individual who has dedicated his life to helping others.
Edwin Carter Conley was born on June 23, 1950 to Robert E. and Lillian May Johnson Conley. He graduated from Magoffin County High School in 1967, went to Prestonsburg Community College for 2 years, then transferred to the University of Kentucky. During his college years, Carter worked in the summer for Ashland Oil and Payne Rice to pay his way through school. It was through these jobs (that paid $2.75 and $2.25 an hour) that he learned the meaning of hard work and the importance of an education. In May of 1972 he graduated with a BA in Early Education from UK. And in the summer of 1972, he entered Fire Service and became a fire fighter. He began teaching that fall at the Salyersville Grade School where he helped coach the basketball team.
I knew Carter all through High School and started working at the Grade School when he did in the fall of 1972. We’ve been friends a long time!
This morning as I was looking at all these facts about him that I’m going to read to you now, I realized that I had not mentioned how caring and compassionate he is. His first concern, of course, is the victim but he always displays love and compassion to the families involved. He realizes that everyone matters and treats them with respect and dignity.
I personally thank him for that.
In 1973 he joined with a group of friends to create the Magoffin County CB Club. During their meetings many discussions were held about handling emergency services in Magoffin County with the help of communications. These conversations were instrumental to the formation of the Rescue Squad.
In May of 1974, while teaching school and serving as a firefighter, Carter joined a class and got his EMT certification. He has recertified every 2 years since and is proud to have one of the lowest Certification numbers in the state of Kentucky.
In August of 1974, Bob Dixon was Fire Chief. Carter and Bob developed a friendship with Captain Graham Burchett of the Floyd County Rescue Squad, the top notch squad in the state, which was formed due to the tragic bus accident in 1958. Under Burchett’s guidance, the Magoffin County Rescue Squad was formed. The squad started off with 10 members and $100.00. After some fundraising, the group was able to purchase a 1969 bread truck style step van and a pry bar for $50.00. The bar is still used by the squad today.
Calvin Prater, who was game warden at the time, told the group about an equipment sale at Jenny Wiley State Park in the Spring of 1975. With only $225.00 in the bank, the squad went to the sale. They purchased a V bottom boat for $125.00. But the group needed 2 boats for water rescue and drowning recovery. When another boat came up for auction, the group didn’t have enough money to purchase it. Calvin said to Carter, “Buy it”. Carter said, “We can’t” and Calvin again said, “Buy it”. Carter bid on the boat, won the auction, and Calvin Prater and Thomas Layne of Floyd Co. went through the crowd taking up money to pay the balance.
With the help of Joann Stephens Hayden, and County Judge Herald Borders, Carter applied for recognition for the Magoffin County Rescue Squad. To get them started, the Judge appropriated $5,000. With the continuing help of the Judge and Fiscal Court, the group was able to use coal severance money to purchase more equipment.
Carter taught school three years and three months and decided to make a career move. He began work as a Ranger with the Division of Forestry while also working with the squad.
In 1978, the squad was able to purchase land in Dixie and build the Magoffin County Rescue Squad building. Also in 1978 Salyersville experienced a terrible flood. Having no way to communicate with other agencies was overwhelming. The Floyd County Rescue Squad came to help evacuate the old nursing home that had been flooded terribly. After that event, Carter realized that the squad needed a communications system. In 1980 with coal severance money, a base and 2 two-way radios were purchased for $4,000.00. More coal severance money followed and Whistle Arnett, Civil Defense Director, applied for a grant and got another boat and motor.
Always in the need of funding, the squad created an Auction, modeled after the one in Floyd County, in the summer of 1979. They started out with 25 donated items. People would bid on the items, and their bid would be published in the newspaper on Thursday. Then another round of bidding would start and the high bid would appear again the next week. The winners would be published in the paper on the third week! This continued for 2 years but when the radio station came to town and was able to carry the auction live, Carter said, “We thought we hit the big time.” The auction was held in this very building for several years. As time passed, the auction was held at Howard Cable and became televised. Rick Howard was able to put up an antenna that would carry the auction live and in color. With fundraising success, donations from citizens and coal severance, the squad was able to purchase more equipment, including the Hurst “Jaws of Life” in 1981. And in 1985, with the help of another Civil Defense grant, an addition was made to the headquarters in Dixie.
In 1982, Carter’s life really changed when he married his wife of 32 years, Vivian. They have two sons, Joe David and Robert Carter and she and the children made his life complete. Both sons followed in their father’s footsteps and became EMTs. They also have two grandsons and the prospects of a future daughter in law and granddaughter as well.
As a member of the Magoffin County Jaycees in the early 1980s, Carter developed a true love for volunteerism. The club was community oriented and he became inspired as he worked with the club on their many events for the townspeople. He learned from the group how teamwork and commitment could bring about much needed change. It was during this time that Governor Julian Carroll appointed him a Kentucky Colonel for his recruitment of members for the Jaycees.
In June of 2008, coal severance money helped to purchase land at the junction of Rt. 7 and Parkway Drive. The new Rescue Squad building was erected in November of that same year.
The squad has dealt with many struggles over the years. Many good men have come and gone. With the County’s support, and the support of donations for their cause, the budget for the squad is now $35,000 yearly and is a team effort with the community and squad members. This year, Carter celebrates 42 years of Fire Service and marks the Magoffin County Rescue Squad’s 40th anniversary.
Carter always felt privileged that he could have a job that would also allow him time to work with the Rescue Squad and to also volunteer. He worked at Mountain Comprehensive Care; was assistant Fire Chief from 1982-85; a Level 1 Fire Instructor through the Kentucky Fire Commission; and worked at Big Sandy ADD as a case manager in Aging Services for 15½ years.
Over the years, he was offered job opportunities away from Magoffin County, but in his heart, he could not leave the community he loved. He remembers being told, “If you don’t leave a footprint on this earth, how will anyone know that you were here and were able to make a difference in the lives of others?”
Carter, I know I speak for everyone here today as I say, “Thank You for your unconditional love of Salyersville and Magoffin County. Your footprints are many and you truly have made a difference.”
I am honored to call you my friend and delighted to present you with this Renaissance Lifetime Achievement Award.
From Suzanne Arnett
Speech Read at Ceremony