King County's first female paramedic retires

King County's first female paramedic retires »Play Video
VASHON ISLAND, Wash. -- She's hanging up her uniform and putting away her pager one final time.

Besides being Vashon Island's first full-time paramedic, Kathy Bonner holds one more title: she was the first ever female paramedic in King County history.

"All the gentlemen in the room started laughing," Bonner recalled about applying for a job the first time. "I didn't know there were no women in the Seattle fire department {or} in the Seattle Medic One program.

"That was never what it was about for me. I just love the job. I'm so glad, and I'm so glad for the women who have followed me."

On Saturday night, women and men, friends and family, paramedics and first responders came out to honor Bonner, who retired after more than 30 years of service. Bonner wore a dress and a smile, although sometimes she was known more for showing up to emergency calls in costume.

"I was in a Christmas production and I had a long, white gown and all these little lights on it," Bonner recalled. "A car accident call went out -- very, very close to the theater. So I slipped out the back door, didn't have time to take the stuff off. I showed up first and the people in the car went, 'Oh, good. We went to heaven!'"

Friends and co-workers remembered similar funny moments with humor and with love.

"Someone was in trouble and Kathy jumped out of bed, pulled on some clothes and went charging out of the house," remembered former fire commissioner Jan Nielsen. "And it was pitch dark and she ran into the edge of the door in the bedroom and knocked herself out," Nielsen said with a smile.

Many on the island say that's a sign of Bonner's dedication over her decades of service.

"When I think of the thousands of people for whom she's cared for, you probably can't pass many homes on Vashon that she hasn't been there," said former co-worker Mike Kirk.

One of the people she's cared for is Chelsea Griffith, who came to Saturday's celebration. She was just a child when she was hit by a car while riding her bike.

"{Kathy} recognized that there'd been a collapsed lung, and she put in a flutter valve," said Glenna Griffth, Chelsea's mom. "I am so glad she knew what to do. She's so experienced and she's done this for so many years."

"I remember hearing stuff about her, and hearing, 'oh she saved your life,' you know. So I'm just really thankful she could do that," added Chelsea.

On Saturday, many offered thanks and shared stories of Bonner's career, celebrating the woman from Vashon who stands on an island all her own.

"When I moved to Vashon there was a doctor here one afternoon a week and people died here of ruptured spleens," Bonner said. "That was so unnecessary. That doesn't happen anymore."

"I'm glad to have been a part of that," she added. "It's hard leaving. It's been my life. It's been my life for my adult life, and I've loved it."