By Marielle Mohs

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — It started off as a dare to see if a 21-year-old housekeeper had what it took to be an EMT/first responder.

Rose Pelzel accepted that challenge.

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Now, 50 years later, she is retiring this week with the longest standing career as a paramedic in the country. She’s also the first woman to do the job.

(credit: CBS)

“At the time it was obvious they were very hesitant to have a woman out there,” Pelzel said.

Rose Pelzel convinced hospital management in 1971 to give her chance.

She was a 21-year-old with basic first aid training, a passion to help others and resilience.

“I was young and strong,” she said. “I grew up with five boys and all that wrestling paid off, I guess.”

EMTs and paramedics always team up to respond to emergencies and Pelzel never asked her male counterparts to do any work for her.

But it was public perception she had to work against.

“Bringing a patient into a hospital, the assumption was I was a family member so I was always asked to step out of the room,” Pelzel said.

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Over the years the gender ratio at M Health Fairview evened out. And Pelzel took it upon herself to be a mentor to those coming in.

She had a front row seat to tragedy, but also miracles.

Her favorite was helping save a young Eagan boy’s life after he nearly drowned in a pool three years ago.

“The dad thanked me for saving his son’s life and just the look on his face of appreciation and that he was so close to losing his son, that was the moment for me that I knew it couldn’t get better,” Pelzel said.

As she rounded the corner of retirement Pelzel never expected to finish her 50 years in this field saving lives in a pandemic.

But she learned you can never stop learning.

“There’s no time when you can say, ‘I’ve seen it all,’ because you haven’t,” she said.

Now she’s ready to walk away and see more of what she still hasn’t.

In retirement, Pelzel plans to focus on being a mom, grandma and friend.

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She is already in training for alternative healing practices. It’s her next journey in a life dedicated to helping others.

Marielle Mohs