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Remembering Dan Perkins, One of KAA’s Founding Members

By Clark Judge

(January 30, 2024) — When the Killingworth Ambulance Association celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021, it called on some of its original members to attend a ceremony that October at Deer Lake.

Charlie Smith, (photo above, right) the KAA’s first president, was there. So was Don McDougall, (photo above, left) who retired from the KAA last year after more than 50 years of service. And so was Dan Perkins (photo above, center).

Sadly, Perkins passed away last week at the age of 82.

Perkins was a lifelong resident of Killingworth who grew up on the family farm, helped with chores around the property (including milking cows, haying fields and caring for animals) and pitched in to help his Dad, known as Leslie, at a gas station on Route 80 next to the Sheridan farm.

He graduated from Morgan High School in Clinton and was actively involved in Killingworth volunteering for more than 60 years as a founding member of the KAA, the Killingworth Volunteer Fire Company, the town’s Historical Society, Killingworth Lions Club and Killingworth Library. He also worked at the popular Cowboy Valley, which opened in 1957, and participated in Killingworth’s 350th anniversary celebration.

But it was as a volunteer in on the ground floor of the KAA that we remember him. Perkins was one of a handful of Killingworth residents who, in 1971, joined Walter Albrecht to push for a volunteer ambulance association. After one was approved at an informal town meeting, a group of approximately 25 volunteers — mostly married couples – formed the KAA, with its members on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“There were lulls in staffing,” said Smith in a 2021 video where he, McDougall and Perkins shared memories of the KAA’s start, “and there were lulls in funding at certain points. But we recovered. And look where we are now, baby.”

Yes, look. Today the Killingworth Ambulance Association is housed in a two-story, two-garage building on Route 81, complete with EMTs on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are approximately 20 active techs now, each of whom is required to pass a rigorous exam that involves 180 hours of training. Plus, where there were once fewer than 100 emergency calls a year for a used 1964 Cadillac that served as the KAA’s first ambulance, there were a record 562 last year.

“Times were different then,” Perkins said in 2021. “We started with nothing, and it turned out pretty well.”

It did. Fortunately, Perkins was there to help with its growth, and the KAA — as well as Killingworth and its citizens — are grateful.

“Dan Perkins and his wife,” said Smith, “were the heart and soul of the early first-aid efforts that we made here in Killingworth. Dan especially had a real keen sense of good health care … good first-aid health care … and he accompanied us down to Westbrook when we went to the first-aid course sponsored by the Westbrook Ambulance Association just for us. We’ll surely miss him.”

A service for Dan Perkins will be held at the Swan Funeral Home in Clinton on Saturday, February 3, 2024. Calling hours are from 10:00 a.m. to Noon, followed immediately by a short service at Swan. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be sent to the Killingworth Ambulance Association, 335 Route 81, Killingworth, CT 06419.

Photo by Clark Judge

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