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Jan 5, 2011 11:37 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Former Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance Chief Melissa 'Missy' Croke Dies At 57

Jan 5, 2011 11:37 AM

Whenever the call for an ambulance would crackle on the radio, Missy Croke was always prepared.

A founding member of the Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps who rose early last decade to the position of chief, Ms. Croke—born Melissa, but known to all as Missy—died on Wednesday, December 29, at the age of 57 at her lifelong home on North Main Street in the village. The cause was brain cancer, which she had battled for about a decade, according to her family.

The inky-haired and ever-smiling Ms. Croke possessed a seemingly innate sangfroid, her large circle of family and friends recalled this week. This composure—along with her around-the-clock responsiveness—earned her the distinction of running the greatest number of calls by any one member in the ambulance company’s history. Her tally of approximately 4,000 calls spanning about 20 years was remarkable: the current chief of the company, Ian King, noted that the next-closest number of calls by a first responder with similar tenure is about 2,500.

Her local legacy is far from just numerical, however.

Fellow emergency responders noted in recent interviews how Ms. Croke was famous for going to bed in her signature attire—a Thunder Bird Sisters T-shirt and blue jeans—so that she would be ready for an ambulance call at the drop of a hat.

And once on the scene, whether it involved a car accident or a heart attack, Ms. Croke was admired for taking command of the situation while quickly gauging a person’s mood and acting accordingly.

“She’s kind of a rare diamond,” remarked Assistant Chief Janet Cassidy, who ran hundreds of calls with Ms. Croke. “You don’t find many like her.”

Because of Ms. Croke’s dedication, the ambulance company is served by more young volunteers.

Chief King and Chief Keith Phillips were two of Ms. Croke’s protégés in a program she initiated to recruit high school seniors into the emergency medical services. She was the crew chief for the “A-Team,” a handful of high school students who, thanks to her, got their start in the field.

Born on November 2, 1953, at Southampton Hospital, Ms. Croke was instilled with a spirit of local volunteerism at an early age, as her father, John Croke, served as a chief of the Southampton Fire Department.

Ms. Croke attended Our Lady of Poland School (now Our Lady of the Hamptons Regional Catholic School) in Southampton Village and Mercy High School (now Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School) in Riverhead before becoming a licensed practical nurse through the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

A part-time freelance nurse, Ms. Croke was deeply passionate about helping others.

“I think most families—when they saw Missy on a call, they immediately knew their loved one was in good hands, because she just had that way,” Ms. Cassidy said.

Michael Croke, one of Ms. Croke’s two brothers, recalled an early episode of his sister’s medical calling. When he was about 5 years old and she was 8, he said, the two were walking near the railroad tracks that cut through the northern part of the village, a picnic in tow. When he tripped and gashed his knee, his sister wrapped his wound with a napkin and sandwich bag from their lunch.

“That was probably her first rescue, or whatever you call it,” he said, adding that even up through this past summer, she would keep checking his blood pressure for him. “She was always there for me. She always took care of her little brother.”

“You just cannot understate her love of humanity,” said her brother Morgan.

Ms. Croke’s compassion became legend at the ambulance company, where she is credited with recruiting at least 13 current members of the corps’s 44-volunteer roster, Chief King said.

“She always had an ability to stay calm and she knew exactly what needed to be done,” said the chief, who ran at least 800 calls with her. “She was able to direct people and get stuff done. She never yelled. Just being able to watch her work was pretty amazing.”

Ms. Croke began her calls a few years prior to the official formation of the SVVA in 1993. In the early days of the corps, its four volunteer members went door to door to solicit donations for the purchase of basic medical supplies. She served as chief from 2001 to 2005 and as a secretary for 10 years prior, with some work as treasurer as well, though she has almost always been the most public face of all the local ambulance corps.

“She was kind of like an ‘earth mother’ in the field of EMS,” Ms. Cassidy said, noting her former colleague’s free spirit.

This spiritedness included a devotion to animals, as well. “She was just so enthusiastic about life and animals and was always so positive,” said Ms. Croke’s 22-year-old daughter, Jesse Croke. “She had a love for all creatures.”

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It is because of you that I have become the person that I am today.

You have no idea how much I am going to miss you.

7-18-30 forever.

Bless you Missy.
By Uncle Fester (61), Southampton on Dec 29, 10 7:35 PM
I'm very sad and sorry to hear this news. Missy was a wonderful person who gave so much of herself to her community. She will be deeply missed. My deepest sympathy to her family and all the members of the Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance. May she Rest in Peace.

By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Dec 29, 10 7:55 PM
Missy was truly one of a kind. Her dedication and loyalty to Southampton was inspiring. God Bless her and her family as they go through this very difficult time. RIP Missy...
By krs1115 (2), Southampton on Dec 29, 10 9:58 PM
you were truly an amazing woman,a role model for everyone. r.i.p.
By local (106), north sea on Dec 29, 10 10:13 PM
I as well as many others are devastated by this. Missy is so loved and I hate that this bright star has been taken away from her friends and family so soon. Every time I saw Missy, she was so happy no matter what her troubles were. It was her that I turned to when I needed a shoulder to lean on.

I'll miss you Missy more than you may ever know.....
By LMVT (56), Shinnecock Indian Reservation on Dec 29, 10 10:32 PM
I am si sorry bo learn of Myssy.s psssidg. dur tamioy hae maEy ties going back 75 or more years. Missy and my daughter took the BOCES LPN course and graduated in 1953. They were good nurses. Missy had a heart of gold and will be missed by many.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Dec 30, 10 3:37 PM
I am so sorry to learn of Missy's passing. Our family has many ties going back 75 or more years. Missy and my daughter took the BOCES LPN course and graduated in 1953. They were good nurses. Missy had a heart of gold and will be missed by many.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Dec 30, 10 3:42 PM
I'm so sorry. She was such a lovely person, and did so much for the community. Bless you Missy.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Dec 30, 10 11:16 PM
Unfortunately, it always seems that only the good die young.

In a roundabout way, pricks are lucky they usually "live forever". When they go, they have no excuse, for not leaving the world better, for the time they were granted.

Thank you, from the bottom of many of our hearts, you have earned a "better place" to be, Missy...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 1, 11 5:45 AM
Missy has a beautiful loving heart for all creatures, 2 legs and four. She is adored by many and we will all miss her terribly.
By gg (1), Southampton on Jan 1, 11 11:48 PM
I did not know her but it sounds as though she was a GREAT women who gave to everyone she came in contact with. My prayers go out to the family!
By Bridgehampton (36), Bridgehampton on Jan 4, 11 12:27 AM