May 26th honors Perlista Yvonne Henry, EMS extraordinaire

Across Virginia the week of May 20th through the 26th was Emergency Services Volunteer Recognition Week. In addition to all of our local emergency workers being recognized with a resolution by the Bath Board of Supervisors at their May meeting, one exceptional volunteer has a day, this Saturday the 26th, designated in her honor. Perlista Henry, who has served on the Hot Springs Volunteer Rescue Squad since 1983 spoke with us at the radio station in Hot Springs. Referred to often as PY, she shared something I was glad to know. “The name I prefer actually is Perlista”.   She is a model lifelong learner, and her story about entering this line of work didn’t completely surprise me.

“Could you tell us a little bit about how you got interested in Emergency Service work?”

“I became interested back about 1983 when I took an EMT class at the Hot Springs Fire and Rescue Building. Had no intention of joining, I just took it for general knowledge, and the then fire chief, and EMT instructor, Edward McCallister was actually doing some electrical work at our church, and he said what are you going to do with that new EMT? And I said ‘Well, I hadn’t planned on doing anything”, and so he whipped out an application out of his pocket, and said here, fill this out, and that’s how I got started”. Other EMS related roles Perlista has served in are: representative to the Central Shenandoh Emergency Services Council, longtime assistance in hospital transport, and I was even a fortunate student of hers in Basic First Aid in the early two-thousands.

“What have been some of the highlights of your years of service?”

“Oh they, there’s just so many things that I’ve seen. You get to see the best of humanity; you get to see the very worst of humanity. In some rare cases, you’ve seen the dead come back to life. You’ve seen people to die, who you didn’t think should die, and it’s just ongoing, and sometimes overwhelming.”

“Not everyone can handle the level of tension and stress, and then peaks and valleys that emergency work involves. What are some of the things you’ve done to be able to sustain yourself throughout it?”

“Well the first thing that you need is training because when you know what to do, that sort of solves the situation of ‘what do I do if I run on this?, and you go back to your training. Then as in a whole lot of other things, you gotta have faith; you gotta realize that there’s a higher power; there’s somebody else who really is going to decide the great outcome.”

“My first reaction when I heard about PY Henry day was break out the cake, and the balloons, and the fireworks, and instead of that, you’re going to be endorsing a day of service. Can you tell us a little bit about that?”

“Ok, so this will be the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend, and so one of the projects that we’re gonna take on is to help place flags on the graves of veterans in the county, and so I’ll help participate with that. And if anybody else is interested, there are some flags available at the courthouse, and so you can choose the cemetery of your choice, and put a flag on the veteran of your choice.”

“Well, I feel like I remember either parents or grandparents telling me, Memorial Day used to be considered Decoration Day?”

“Yes, Decoration Day, I can remember in our community going with my grandmother and she would cut live flowers, and she’d go put flowers on the graves of everybody in the family, not just the veterans.”

“Can you think of anything else you would like to share?”

“I’m just extremely honored that the Board of Supervisors designated that day, but just remind that I can’t do what I do without the other people who are on the squad, and those who trained me. It’s a team effort, and as they say, ‘there’s no I in Team’.”


Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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