AYER -- Kathy Kidder has lived in Ayer for 38 years. For the last 25 of those years, she's been a member of the Ayer ambulance squad.
During her tenure, she's seen a lot of injury. Kidder said while she's thankful for the experience, it pained her greatly when seeing friends and neighbors in traumatic situations.
"There will always be calls that stick in your mind -- calls you just never forget," said Kidder. "Either it was someone that you knew or something that just hit you."
Kidder recalled being at a football game at Ayer High School when a 27-year-old coach collapsed. The man had suffered from a fatal aortic aneurysm -- a condition not detectable outside of a hospital setting.
"I kept saying 'OK, he's young. We're doing CPR on him and the (defibrillator) is going to bring him back," recalled Kidder. "But it couldn't bring him back. It was just awful because there were all these young Pop Warner football players, my own kids included, there. And you could have heard a pin drop on that field.
"It took me a while to get over that," said Kidder. "You're human."
Kidder noted that her husband and six generations back of in-law family members (Kidders and Fillebrowns) have a proud history of service in the Ayer Fire Department.
Kidder has three sons and four grandchildren. She laughed that the little ones will keep her hopping in retirement.
Still, Kidder said she'll miss the camaraderie of her fellow EMTs and the firefighters
"Absolutely. This was a very hard decision for me, very hard," said Kidder. "I loved doing it very much."
But medical injuries have sidelined her from the job. "Otherwise, I'd never have left," said Kidder.
Ayer firefighters in full dress uniform, including Chief Robert Pedrazzi, accompanied Kidder to Tuesday selectmen's meeting. Kidder was awarded a plaque and a bouquet of flowers for her service to the town. The audience was packed with her family members to watch the honor ceremony.
"I want to thank my family for putting up with me running out the door in the middle of the night," said Kidder. "It's a lot for a family. We leave at all hours. You never know when you run out the door."
Kidder has also previously served on the Ayer School Committee.
"Kathy was one of the most dedicated people to the department for a number of years," said Pedrazzi. "I wasn't always chief. We went on a lot of calls together." Pedrazzi called Kidder a great mentor to other paramedics and EMTs.
"She did a great service for the town," said Pedrazzi.