ANSONIA—It was a catastrophic event that took place March 8, 1994, that caused Crystal Horne to pursue a career in the emergency medical field today.
“It was like a million years ago when my dad, James Branham, was having a cardiac arrest in our driveway,” the then-eighth grader recalled. “I pretty much remember it all. I came off the school bus to see our neighbors and first responders, Dean and Lois Banter, giving my dad CPR. After Dad passed away later, all of them came back to the house. This is a great community of people who reached out to Mom. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
After his passing, she and her mother, Julia, who died March 23 this year, took CPR classes given by Greenville Rescue.
“That furthered my interest in me wanting to be involved in the community,” Crystal said.
The 1999 Ansonia High School graduate began taking classes in 2002 via an internship program.
“It was a ride-along program with the Eaton Department in Delaware County, Ind., where I was residing at the time,” said Horne, who moved back to Darke County in 2006. “It was a little department.”
Now, 20 years later, she is serving as president of the Ansonia Rescue Squad. She became acting president Oct. 1 and was elected by the membership on Dec. 1.
She has been with the Ansonia department for five years, starting off as an EMT-Advanced and receiving her paramedic status in 2021 when she was vice president of the squad.
She said she probably goes on more runs now than when she did before.
“I have my pager on at all times,” Crystal said.
When asked what her most memorable run was, she replied, “Over the years, we see a little bit of everything. I can’t say I’ve seen it all. Something else will always surprise you. I’ve been on a lot of memorable runs.”
The ones that stand out for her, however, are when the rescue service gets feedback from families of those they rescued.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, our job is done when we drop them off at the hospital,” she said. “People stop by the squad house from time to time to let us know how their loved one is. That’s the blessing of being in a small town.”
A lot of education is involved in this program.
“I can’t imagine how many hours of studying I’ve done,” she said. “Everything keeps evolving. Stuff totally changes, such as the procedures. I have respect for paramedics who have been doing this longer than I have.”
She is not the first female president Ansonia Rescue has ever had. Others have been Peggy Basham, Patty Rodeheffer, Gayle Rismiller and Chris Eby, the latter quite a few times.
While Horne is president of the squad, it is Shawn Wehrkamp who is president of the squad’s board of trustees.
Crystal and Fire/Rescue Chief Chris Widener actually changed positions in making this happen. He is now vice president of the squad, but is still fire chief and also works at another station elsewhere.
“I have big shoes to fill,” Crystal admitted. “Chris has been president for 10 years. I looked up to him and relied on him so much.”
In addition to working at Ansonia, she is a paramedic for Versailles Life Squad one day a week.
At one point, she worked for Tri-Village for a short time.
Crystal said the transition going into the presidency of the squad was smooth and has been great.
Tammy Royster is the secretary; Joe Widener, the squad’s representative to the board; Jerrod Widener, training officer; and Angie Widener, scheduling office.
“There are 25 people in this department, and we are very fortunate to have had the levy pass at the recent election,” Crystal remarked. “Soon, we will be adding bunk rooms, and people will be paid around the clock now.”
Ansonia Rescue, she said, made 409 runs this year, with a solid mix of everything in injuries and illnesses.
She was married four years ago to Mike Gross and they reside in Rossburg with her 20-year-old son Dalton Horne and her doggy daughter, Bailey.
Dalton is now a full-time college student at Edison.
“He just got his associate’s degree in applied science in forensics, and now is working on his criminal justice degree. He’d like to become a death investigator. I am so proud of him.”
In her spare time, what little she has, she enjoys photography, spending time with her family and visiting her mother’s property in the rural Ansonia area that she recently purchased.