A Tribute to James O. Page

We at Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC, like the rest of America's EMS community, are stunned and saddened at the untimely and unexpected death of James O. Page.  We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Jane, his mother Marion, his four children, six grandchildren and the rest of his family.

Jim Page was one of our founding partners.  But in addition to being our partner, he was also our friend, our confidant, and our colleague. 

Numerous tributes and articles will list Jim's many accomplishments, honors and contributions, and his obituary recounts them in detail.  We have also linked to several of these articles.  Allow us here to share some of our personal insight into Jim's involvement in our firm, and comment on his legacy.

The three of us were the founding partners of Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC ("PWW").  But many were not aware that we both had the privilege of knowing Jim for nearly 15 years prior to the formation of PWW.  We knew Jim as a visionary and as the leading voice of EMS in the United States.  We also knew him as our industry's conscience.  So you can imagine how we felt on that day in 1999 when the three of us discussed our shared vision for creating a new, national EMS law firm, and heard him agree to join it without hesitation.  Here we were planning the start of a new venture with Jim Page, then a 62 year-old EMS statesman with nothing more to prove to the world.  Ever the entrepreneurial spirit, Jim shared his advice, insight and wisdom, gleaned from having already started and managed several successful enterprises.

We weren't quite sure where this experiment would take us.  We had high hopes, but didn't know for sure whether there was a sustainable market for a multiple-attorney, national EMS law practice.  When we launched PWW in January 2000, we were fortunate to gain immediate recognition and acceptance within EMS and the ambulance industry in great part due to Jim’s stellar reputation.  That also meant we got very busy, very fast.  We underwent almost immediate growth, doubling the size of our practice for each of the first three years of our existence.

Whenever the three of us had an opportunity to get together, usually at an EMS conference or event of some type, we'd always make a point to carve out some time for a partners' meeting.  Although we communicated with Jim in California daily or at least weekly by phone and e-mail, these meetings would give us an opportunity for meaningful face-to-face discussion about our practice and its future.  These meetings were part "mutual admiration society" and part business.  Jim would often start off the meeting by saying something like "I can't tell you how proud I am of you guys" and tell us how honored he was to have his name connected to this firm.  How honored he was!  We would typically respond by reminding him that the honor was ours and that the firm would always operate in a manner that would forever make him proud to have his name on the door.  We hope we have fulfilled that promise, both to Jim and to our clients and customers.  We pledge to continue that legacy of service to others that Jim helped instill in both of us.

With Jim's passing, we are in hindsight so happy that we so frequently told him just how much we admired and respected him, and of our pride in having him as our law partner.  Far too frequently we forget to tell the most important people in our lives just how we feel about them, and we are glad we didn't make that mistake with Jim.  He knew just how honored we were to join our names with his in creating Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC.

In addition to sharing his pride, Jim would also express his concern that he thought we were always working too hard.  To be sure, running this practice has been time intensive, but it is our passion and we couldn't imagine doing anything else.  Nevertheless, drawing on his publishing background, Jim was the first to suggest that our business model had room for books, videos and other products.  Out of Jim's suggestions came our publication of "The Ambulance Service Guide to HIPAA Compliance," "The HIPAA Privacy Training Video" (in which Jim appears), and "Better Billing: The Ambulance Service Model Compliance Plan."  Just this summer we had professionally videotaped one of our mock trial programs on EMS documentation.  Although we hadn't made precise plans for the commercial use of a mock trial video, we now have hours of footage of Jim playing the role of the wise and learned judge. 

Although Jim began to ease into something like a "retirement" (we are convinced, however, that he didn't know the true meaning of the word), he still participated regularly in firm activities and projects.  We presented workshops and seminars together, including the mock trial in Florida in July and a full-day workshop later that month in Southern California on public-private partnerships.  At this workshop Jim shared some of the information and experiences he was gaining in a national RV tour he was taking with Jane, visiting some of the best small-city fire departments in America.  Jim just never stopped learning and growing.

And his zest for life and for new things that were physically and mentally challenging rivaled that of people half his age. This is no doubt what kept him young at heart.  Whether it was driving that big Detroit diesel motor home thousands of miles across the country, or “packing up” and going into a live burn flashover training session with young firefighters (which he did just last year), we were richly blessed by Jim when he shared with all of us in his writings those experiences and how we can all learn from them.

Near the end of our work day on Friday, September 3rd, which became the last full day of his life, the three of us had a long conference call to discuss firm business and a few client-related matters.  It was just like every other phone conference we'd had with him; we'd share issues and challenges, and he'd share wisdom and solutions.  He was talking in his typically enthusiastic and positive way, and at the conclusion of the call we wished him a good holiday weekend, since Labor Day was upon us. 

Jim's death on Saturday, September 4th was a devastating loss to us personally, and to the American EMS system as a whole.  Almost immediately the tributes and condolences starting pouring in, and we take this opportunity to thank everyone who took the time to send us a message of sympathy and support.  That brings us to the subject of Jim's legacy and the future of PWW.

So many of the messages we received have included statements such as "I never knew Jim, but he changed my life . . ."  We already knew it, but Jim's death, and the outpouring of messages we have received, confirm that Jim touched countless lives on his all-too-brief time on Earth.  We think of Jim's legacy as a building with four pillars. 

The first pillar is the legacy of Jim Page as a human being. This includes the family he left behind -- his mother, his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and all the other relatives who loved him and who carry on his name. It also includes the countless individuals whom he considered among his friends and who, like us, were personally touched by the wisdom, guidance, and personal advice they received from this truly great man.  There are few people in our lives who have had a profound impact that helped set the course for our futures---and Jim Page was one of them. 

The second pillar of his legacy consists of those who live because he lived.  Many people who are alive today don't know they have Jim Page to thank for being alive.  Jim was directly responsible for saving lives as a hands on firefighter and officer and in his work in implementing one of America's first paramedic programs.   He was also indirectly responsible for the protection of so many lives by disseminating information that has helped countless emergency caregivers to do their jobs with increased skill and compassion. Many of us attribute our roots in EMS to Jim and his many positive creations and projects -- from the role models of Johnny and Roy in “Emegency” to establishing model EMS systems to the many books, articles, and opinions he penned.  Jim was a prolific writer who “told it like it is” and then pointed us to the solutions to our problems in a practical way. His collective works helped all of us do better work for our communities. People whose lives have been saved through Jim's efforts as a human being, both directly and indirectly, will go on to have their own kids and to raise their own families, when some would otherwise not have gotten that chance.  What an incredible contribution to humankind.

The third pillar of Jim's legacy consists of the emergency responders who with pride can claim to be part of a profession that, simply, wouldn't exist as we know it had Jim Page not lived.  He was truly the ultimate trailblazer and visionary who stood up for EMS when EMS had no voice.  Every single one of us who provides emergency care, in any setting, reflects on the leadership, wisdom and conscience that Jim Page gave to us and to the establishment of what Jim described as “the most noble of all professions.”

The fourth pillar is where we come in.  The fourth pillar of Jim's legacy is his love for the law and for fairness and justice.  A.J. Heightman, our longtime friend from Pennsylvania and the current editor of JEMS, mentioned on the phone the day after Jim's death that Jim's love of the law might have been rooted in his dislike of the bureaucracy, and that he saw the law as a way to cut through red tape to help people achieve a just result.  Jim often spoke of how the “fourth branch” of government”---the bureaucracy---would get in the way of moving things forward. His legal career was dedicated to breaking down the legal barriers to progress. And he always looked out for those “in the field” where the real work of our profession took place. Jim would always have time to speak to an EMT, paramedic or firefighter and give them legal advice, most often for free or for little money. He told us that this was his contribution back to those who really make our EMS profession what it is today.  Wherever Jim received the inspiration for his passion in the practice of law, it manifested itself in integrity in every word he wrote and deed he performed as an attorney.

We can think of no greater way to honor this fourth pillar of Jim's legacy than to continue Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC full steam ahead.  We will continue to be known as Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC, and will continue to practice law exclusively for EMS, ambulance, fire, and public safety providers nationwide and to serve our clients from the foundation of core values that Jim instilled in us.  We will always conduct ourselves in a manner that would make Jim proud.  We will continue to adhere to the principles of integrity that were Jim's guiding light.  Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC will serve as an enduring and living testament to the life and values of Jim Page as an attorney and champion for doing what is right. 

James O. Page was an extraordinary human being.  To us, it is like losing a parent and we are grieving his loss to the depths of our souls.  We cannot describe the void that his loss leaves in our hearts.  At the same time, we celebrate his life and rejoice in the fact that our paths intersected with his during his time on Earth.  We wish him the peaceful rest he so richly deserves.  Jim, your work on Earth is done.  Take your rightful place with the angels.  Bless you.

Doug Wolfberg, Steve Wirth and the Staff of Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC