It rained the day they brought Eldon Jamison home.
Heaven’s crying, they said.
Traffic stopped when the ambulance carrying Jamison’s body passed through the crossroads. Already, people lined this stretch of NC 107, those who had heard the news early Tuesday afternoon, May 5, a day usually reserved for celebrating. No one felt much like celebrating.
Firefighters and EMS paramedics stood in silent reverence as the ambulance passed.
Jamison, 71, a 40-year veteran of the Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad died in the line of duty May 5 while on a search and rescue mission at Whitewater Falls. Funeral services were held Saturday, May as 10 Jamison lay in state at in the rescue squad’s Glenville headquarters, a place he called home as much as his own for the past 40 years.
Glenville-Cashiers Fire Chief Randy Dillard called Jamison one of a kind.
Eldon was the most kind-hearted man I have ever met and I wish I had half his compassion,” Dillard said by Messenger on Friday. “We are all better people for having known him. To his family please find comfort in knowing a lot of us are better people because of him.”
According to a press statement from Jackson County Emergency Management, the victim, 24-year-old Chandler Manuel from Rockwell, N.C., was hiking the Foothills Trail with an undisclosed number of other hikers, including his brother when he fell from the falls and drowned. The Whitewater Falls area was closed to the public at the time, including a closed gate, parking lot and facilities. However, the hiking trail to below the falls was open, according to the statement
Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad Board Chairperson, Amanda Foster-Owen called Jamison a piece of living rescue squad history.
“Eldon Jamison was one of the first hired for EMS when we started having full time personnel, she said. “Eldon held many positions during his time with us from captain and assistant captain, to serving on the board of directors.
Jamison was currently serving as a Lieutenant at the time of his passing, according to Foster-Owen.
“Eldon had a heart for serving the community,” she said. “He was the most compassionate and caring person you would ever meet. He has touched the lives of many during his years of service, not only in the Rescue squad but in all of life. Eldon was a friend to all he met. He loved the squad and everyone in it, just as we love him. We are completely heartbroken by this loss he was truly one of a kind and will be missed every day.”
Jeff Stewart, GCRS Chief called Jamison the perfect rescue squad member.
“Elden loved helping people,” he said. “In fact, just minutes before making his descent to the bottom of Whitewater Falls, Elden was himself offering comfort and support to the family members of the victim that had fallen from the falls the day before.
“This is the man Elden was, words cannot describe his level of care and compassion,” Stewart added.
In his 40-plus years on the rescue squad, Jamison was an active leader and member of the GCRS Search and Rescue Team, a former paramedic, and a search and recovery diver. He was also a founding member of what was informally called the squad’s “Goat Team,”
“This meant Eldon was so sure-footed and competent, he could literally go where no one else could go,” Stewart said. “He was a natural born leader and set a high standard for others to follow.”
GCRS Public Information Officer Nat Turner called Whitewater Falls one of the most rugged and remote areas for search and rescue, which all too often ends in a recovery rather than a rescue.
“With gorge walls exceeding 400 feet, access is extremely challenging and difficult, Turner said in statement. “This is an extremely dangerous area for those that venture off the established trails and viewing stations. First responders across our nation put themselves in harm’s way every day to help those in need; the extraordinary men and women of the Glenville-Cashiers Rescue Squad are no exception.”
Turner called Jamison one of the most well-respected and well-loved people, not just in the Rescue Squad, but in the entire community.
“The outpouring of calls of condolence for Eldon have been heartwarming,” he said. “One local resident relayed a story of some ten years ago when their son was having breathing problems, turned blue and went unconscious. Less than two minutes after calling 911, Eldon was knocking at the door, having heard the radio page-out and immediately responded, off-duty, from his home down the road. Arriving ten minutes before the ambulance, Eldon was credited with saving a life that evening.”
“Eldon was one of our most seasoned and experienced leaders; he was a man who lived to serve others and has set a high standard for us all to aspire,” Turner said. “He will be deeply missed.”
Chief Dillard said during the days following Jamison’s death, commenting on what he and the community should do to find comfort through prayer.
“As we try to go to sleep it has occurred to me if we want to honor our friend, he would want everyone to say a prayer for the young man that drowned.”