West Carrollton awards Plaza of Fame honor to longtime EMT, volunteer Heller

A West Carrollton resident’s commitment to saving lives was honored Tuesday with an award given to few citizens.

Lee Jean Heller was inducted into the West Carrollton Plaza of Fame, which recognizes current or former residents for making the city a better place to live and work.

Heller, 78, served on the West Carrollton Fire Department as an emergency medical technician from 1978 through 2001, according to Yvonne Concepcion of the city’s public relations department, who read off Heller’s accomplishments and presented the award during West Carrollton City Council’s most recent meeting Tuesday.

Heller worked at Kettering Medical Center’s continuing medical education department for 28 years, and also volunteered with the victim/witness division of the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office for eight-and-a-half years to help crime victims.

“Ms. Heller received special training to assist Kettering Medical Center staff to better address the effects of critical incidents, allowing them to continue providing care to future patients after a serious incident,” Concepcion said. “Lee Jean continued this effort with the Southwest Ohio Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team assisting firefighters, EMTs, police officers and 911 dispatchers from across Southwest Ohio to cope with the effects of disturbing service calls, allowing them to return to work and continue to help their communities.”

Concepcion said Heller started that vital service in 1993 and continues it today by being a critical member of CISM’s call-out team.

“When 9/11 occurred, Lee Jean volunteered right away to deploy to New York City and spent a week assisting first responders to cope with the stress at Ground Zero, including work on the pile,” she said.

Heller is also the author of two books; the first is “The Ladder: September 11, 2001,″ published in 2020, which focuses on what she experienced volunteering a few weeks after 9/11, and the second is “Lights for Life, Sirens for Suffering,” which was published in 2018.

Heller also assists with water aerobics classes at the YMCA.

Besides being recognized at a city council meeting, Plaza of Fame recipients have their names engraved on bricks placed at West Carrollton Civic Center.

A three-member city council subcommittee chooses the honoree based on nominations from citizens. Each year, one person receives the award. Two people may receive it if nominated as a couple.

Heller told this news outlet she was “surprised and amazed” to receive the honor.

“I’ve been very blessed and proud to serve West Carrollton Fire Department and also Southwest Ohio Critical Incident Stress Management Team, for sure,” she told city council. “Hearing this also reminds me of all who care and serve in different ways: police, fire, EMS dispatchers and military. Also we appreciate nurses, doctors, teachers and all who care so much for others.”

Council member Keith Tilton, who said he’s known Heller all his life, said she’s “probably one of the kindest, sweetest souls around.”

Mayor Rick Barnhart, who worked with Heller when he was a police officer and she was an EMT-A, called her “a wealth of knowledge for all of us and a comfort when we needed something.”

“You truly are a hometown hero,” Barnhart said. “We truly are blessed to have you here to help us along.”

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