Southern Oklahoma Ambulance Service has a rich history in the Ardmore, OK community, serving area residents for over 50 years. Our team has grown to include 52 emergency medical service technicians, providing skilled transport services to 14 municipalities in Southern Oklahoma.
SOAS was incorporated by the newly founded Board of Directors led by Dr. Graybill. The board named Bill Lewis as the first Executive EMS Director, serving from 1962 to 1987.
SOAS began operating as a non-profit ambulance service from its headquarters in an old home south of the Ardmore Adventist Hospital. At the time, formal EMS levels were not yet established, with most employees having the equivalent of first aid training.
Legendary SOAS employee Joe Pack was hired into the position of driver for SOAS. Joe would later become one of the first EMTs trained in the State of Oklahoma. Joe was a charter member of the National Registry of EMTs, and remained active with SOAS from 1966 to the early 2000s.
SOAS employee Butch Bridges founded and incorporated the Oklahoma Emergency Medical Technician Association. He served as its president until 1981.
The first EMT course was taught in Ardmore by Dr. Tom Sparks using the newly created National EMS Curriculum.
The SOAS ambulance fleet obtains our first non-hearse style ambulance. The organization purchased 2 customized Dodge conversion vans, which were top-of-the-line EMS vehicles at the time.
SOAS moves to our new facility at 517 Grand Street. Funding for the Grand Street facility was provided by Carter County and the City of Ardmore.
SOAS became a participating agency in the United Way of South central Oklahoma.
After a brief 6 month interim, the SOAS Board of Directors named Paramedic Rhonda Thomas as the second Executive EMS Director. She served from 1988 to 2005. Rhonda ushered in a new level of modernization of the EMS system advancing the service to the paramedic level.
The SOAS facility completed a major expansion to include a day room, IC room, and two bunk rooms. These additions provided on-duty medics sufficient space to rest and relax between calls. A second expansion was completed in 1993, adding 3 ambulance bays and 4 front offices.
With temporary contracts from the cities of Healdton, Wilson, and Ringling, SOAS begins service to the west end of Carter County and eastern Jefferson County. A newly passed tax initiates the formation of the west end 522 EMS district, with a new contract for SOAS services for the west end of the county. Construction is completed for the Healdton Municipal Hospital ambulance bay in 1999. West end operations were conducted out of two hospital rooms, serving as an office and bunk room.
A permanent memorial dedicated to Paramedics Shawn Skelly and Shane Gilmore is erected in Ardmore’s Regional Park. Skelly and Gilmore were killed in the line of duty on October 6th, 2002. Our fallen paramedics are also recognized at Washington D.C.’s National EMS Memorial.
SOAS replaced the majority of its ambulance fleet. Staff members weighed in to create a new paint design that uniquely identified SOAS ambulances
SOAS celebrated its 50th year of operation with a celebration and recognition dinner. The Rural Southern Oklahoma EMS Board was also honored for its work in of overseeing the 522 district since 1998. This same year, we recognized the 10 year anniversary of the accident that took the lives of Shawn Skelly and Shane Gilmore.
Construction begins on a new ambulance station in Healdton. The station was officially opened for business in 2016 and currently serves as a SOAS substation.
On October 6, 2002, SOAS suffered an unimaginable loss. Paramedics Shawn Skelly and Shane Gilmore were killed in the line of duty while working a motor vehicle accident on I-35. Their sacrifice and service to our community will never be forgotten. In respect for our fallen heroes, medic number 22 and medic number 30 have been retired from the SOAS roster. Shawn and Shane are permanently memorialized in the Ardmore Regional Park.
In 2009, SOAS mourned the passing of founding EMS Executive Director Bill Lewis. Bill passed away on October 25th at the age of 83. Bill’s strength and character formed the foundation of the SOAS tradition.
In 2012, SOAS lost another lifelong supporter in Joe Pack, who passed away on January 25th at 80 years of age. Having stayed in touch with SOAS for many years, Joe’s life spanned the distance between the founding SOAS members and the current SOAS leadership. Joe’s passion for life and positive attitude contributed immeasurably to the SOAS culture.
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