Remembering ‘A Legend’
Rescue Squad Mourns First Woman Chief Tammy Blizzard
Posted: February 27, 2013
Nancy Bradburn of McGaheysville signs the guest book Monday at a gathering to honor the memory of former Harrisonburg Rescue Squad Chief Tammy Blizzard that was held at the rescue station on Reservoir Street. (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Robert Underwood of Harrisonburg, an emergency room doctor at Rockingham Memorial Hospital, and Emily Fowler of Richmond, who once was an ER nurse at RMH, look through Harrisonburg Rescue Squad scrapbooks made by former Chief Tammy Blizzard. They were part of the crowd that gathered Monday for a memorial at the squad station to honor Blizzard, who died last week.
Blizzard mentored countless college students over the years, including Morris, who credits Blizzard for sparking a lifelong desire to help others through the rescue squad.
“She is a legend here,” said Morris, who now lives in Salem. “She dedicated her life to this place. Tammy definitely showed us the ropes.”
Blizzard, who became the first woman chief of the rescue squad, lost her five-year battle with breast cancer on Thursday. She was 48.
The Weyers Cave native and Fort Defiance High School graduate joined the squad in 1984. After a brief stint working for an insurance company, Blizzard shifted her career to nursing.
Most recently, she worked as a nurse at Rockingham Memorial Hospital’s Women’s Health Center. For many years before that, she was a nurse in the hospital’s emergency room.
There, she worked beside Leslie Ney, also a volunteer with the rescue squad. The two became great friends.
“She was just the most sincere, special friend you could have,” Ney said. “When I needed a shoulder to cry on when I lost my parents, she was there.”
First Female Chief
Mike Neff, who now serves as the rescue squad’s president, met Blizzard when he joined the organization in 1986.
Neff watched her climb the ladder to become the first woman to hold the top post at the squad in 1997.
Blizzard, who most recently lived in Bridgewater, oversaw the design and construction of the squad’s roughly 14,000-square-foot building on Reservoir Street, near University Boulevard.
“She considered this place a part of her family,” Neff said.
In her spare time, she organized fundraisers for Relay for Life, spent time with her dogs, Comet and Remi, and cheered on her favorite college basketball team, the Duke Blue Devils. She also loved bluegrass music and played the guitar.
Known for her scrapbook skills, Blizzard kept scrapbooks for the rescue squad, highlighting the department’s more significant calls.
Whatever Blizzard was doing, Neff said, she was always happy. He said people flocked to her warm and welcoming personality.
“They enjoyed her smile,” he said. “They enjoyed her laugh.”
On Sunday, several hundred people gathered for a viewing at Johnson Funeral Service in Bridgewater. Following her funeral on Monday, squad members held a reception at the organization’s headquarters to share their memories of Blizzard.
Meg Sander, who was mentored by Blizzard 20 years ago, traveled from Richmond to attend the service.
Sander, who said a number of other people traveled hours to be there as well, said Blizzard touched many lives during her 30 years with the rescue squad.
“The number of people that were able to get here was just a fraction of the people that wanted to be here,” she said.
Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or email@example.com