This year the Reporter joins its sister papers, the Suffolk Times and the News-Review, in honoring a Person of the Year, chosen from nominations by the community as the Islander who represents the best in all of us. This year’s inaugural choice is Joy Bausman, who has just retired as director of the Emergency Medical Services, a group she has served practically all of her life. It was a difficult choice, with many individuals nominated who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to Shelter Island. We tip our cap to all of the nominees.
Joy Bausman was literally born into the Emergency Medical Services (EMS), the third generation of her family to serve with the American Red Cross. She’s a woman who looks back on a living heritage of volunteerism, where giving your all to others was an expected part of life.
“My family instilled in me that you have a responsibility and obligation to share time, expertise, money with the Island — no excuses, no discussion,” she told the League of Women Voters in a speech last year.
Joy remembers being a toddler, helping her mother, Isabel Bowditch, going door-to-door, raising funds for the Red Cross.
“I was taught to ask if the person could put some change into the American Red Cross can,” she said. “If they did, I handed them a Red Cross sign for the window.”
Her mother was a member of the first training aid class given in 1941 and remained on the board for 50 years. But Ms. Bowditch was hardly the first family member with ties to the Red Cross. Joy’s cousin on her father’s side, Walter Dawson, was the first vice chairman of the Shelter Island chapter and her great uncle on her mother’s side, George Johnson, was the chapter’s first treasurer.
This treasured family legacy of caring for others led to Joy’s vocational choice as a nurse. She pursued undergraduate degrees in psychology at Long Island University, nursing at SUNY Albany and took her Registered Nurse diploma at the Grace School of Nursing at Yale University. It didn’t take much prompting for her mother to encourage Ms. Bausman to become Shelter Island Red Cross chair in 1976, recognizing that it would be natural for a nurse to tackle a system to update the ambulance service.
Her first challenge was opening a temporary shelter at the school with Hurricane Belle bearing down on Long Island in August 1976. With Joy’s skills of organization and motivating others, Belle didn’t harm vulnerable Island residents.
In the early years, there were many nights when Joy responded to police calls for emergency services, with her husband Edward driving while she cared for patients. But ask her whether there were any rescues that stand out and she offers this response: “Every call I have to look at as being of equal importance.”
Just a year after taking the leadership role of the local Red Cross chapter, Joy arranged with the Suffolk County Red Cross to organize an emergency medical training class where she taught the anatomy and physiology components.
As the needs grew — both in terms of medical training and administrative responsibilities — it was Joy who led the development of the Shelter Island chapter. She engineered the transition of the Island’s chapter from the Suffolk County Red Cross to the Long Island chapter of the Red Cross, winning bravos from Long Island Red Cross CEO John Miller.
“We could not have arrived at this moment without the leadership and friendship of Joy Bausman,” Mr. Miller said.
Veteran — and legendary — EMS member Ben Jones has called Joy “an inspirational leader” who “provided the road map to making the Red Cross the organization it has been on Shelter Island.”
It was Joy who recognized the opportunity a few years ago for the town to take over the EMS, a transition that occurred in January 2012. It wasn’t a Red Cross decision to divest itself of the local EMS, but an idea that Joy saw through to the end. Difficult negotiations conducted by Joy resulted in the organization turning over to the town more than $200,000 in funding, plus the building and ambulances. The Red Cross could have sold the assets and retained the money, she said. But a negotiation that was two years in the making resulted in another success for Joy and Shelter Island.
What’s more, she followed up with development of the “Length of Service Program” (LOSAP), granting pension money to the volunteer EMS members. Thanks to her tireless efforts, volunteers in the corps will receive a pension based on their years of dropping everything, no matter what time day or night, to respond to the needs of others. More than 90 percent of Islanders voting on LOSAP endorsed its implementation.
For all of her efforts, the Town Board issued a proclamation in December 2013 making December 15 Joy Bausman Day on Shelter Island.
“Since 1976, Joy has been generously and effectively volunteering her services to the town and all of its residents, leading our emergency responders, the ambulance volunteers,” Supervisor Jim Dougherty said. “We could not have done it without you,” he said.
She has spent the past couple of months helping with the transition of the leadership of EMS to Police Detective Sergeant Jack Thilberg, who will be paid for the job.
Having done the work all these years as a volunteer, Ms. Bausman was quick to say “the job is way over the top” and it was necessary to compensate Det. Sgt. Thilberg, her hand-picked successor.
“It was very important to me to turn the job over to a competent person,” Ms. Bausman said.
Asked why she volunteered through the years, and continues to give back to her community, she didn’t hesitate to find an answer. “I did it because I can,” said the Reporter Person of the Year.