New historical marker unveiled for Roanoke’s first lifesaving crew

Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 7:17 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A piece of Roanoke history was recognized Tuesday with the unveiling of a permanent historical marker. The Star City is home to the first all-volunteer rescue squad in the United States. It was founded in 1928.

“It was the first in the nation, and it ultimately launched the volunteer rescue squad movement around the world," said former Mayor Nelson Harris.

The group was founded by Julian Stanley Wise 92 years ago. He wanted to begin the squad because of a drowning he had witnessed earlier in his life.

To this day, it’s credited for a lot of folks getting their start, including the chief of Roanoke Fire and EMS.

“When I was 17 years old I was looking for a place to volunteer, and Roanoke Life Saving Crew had an EMT program going on. I got in the EMT program, and a lot of people here today were part of it," said Chief David Hoback.

“I think it’s important for us to know our history, to celebrate our history," added Harris.

The marker now sits on Luck Avenue, near Oakey’s Funeral Home and Crematory. The spot is significant as it’s where the first squad kept its vehicle.

“We knew it as volunteers, we were very proud of it, we got to meet the man who started it and what he communicated to us when he came in every day, stories that he told," said Hoback.

“These markers mark a place, a space, and declare something significant happened here, and the birth of the global rescue squad movement happened here," said Nelson.

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