ROSCOMMON – Local emergency responders assess a situation and try to bring calm to chaos. For over thirty years, emergency services worker Kathy Pardo-Carlson has tried to be that calm.
Pardo has served the community not only as EMS/EMT, but also as American Heart Instructor, International Trauma Life Support Instructor, Hazardous Materials Operations, Firefighter, Fire Instructor I, certified Fire Officer III, and Roscommon County Medical Examiner Investigator; employed by both Higgins Township Fire for twenty-one years and the past twenty-two years as Medic with Gerrish Fire Department.
Having lived in northern Michigan most of her life, Pardo said she is from “everywhere,” because as a child, her family moved quite often. Kathy was one of five children born of the union of Joseph and Marguerite Pardo.
Kathy’s parents divorced when Pardo was twelve. Her dad moved to California to become a masseuse and a few months later, they learned he had been killed in a plane crash. It was around that time that Pardo began to assess her life and what course she might take to support herself in the future. She considered many options to ascertain which careers paid well, and felt nursing to be her goal.
At age fifteen, Pardo became homeless, living on city streets downstate. Drugs and other vices were not a big issue within the homeless community at the time however, she was often scared, cold, hungry, and keeping clothes clean was a problem. Even homeless, she worked diligently to go to school and get her education. Eventually, Pardo was able to get live in babysitting jobs when she was sixteen, “finally having a roof over her head.”
She married at seventeen. During that year, she began to put ads in major newspapers in California and New York, inquiring if anyone had information regarding her dad. She wanted to know what his life was like from when he left to the time of the plane crash. Eventually, a man contacted her with a phone number in New York. With hesitation, she called the number. Imagine her shock when Joseph was on the other end of the phone. Her dad was equally surprised, explained he had searched for his children, but their mom had moved too much. He’d missed that fateful flight years before. Their reconnecting was the beginning of a long and rewarding relationship.
A year after her daughter Chellle was born, Pardo was single again. She worked and began putting herself through nursing school. With the end of her marriage and the loss of her grandmother around the same time she felt her life spiraling. One Christmas, she went to a tree lot, and gave the man a quarter for a Christmas tree. Dragging it home, she set it up for her two-year-old daughter and told her the story of Christ’s birth.
Pardo’s faith has always been strong, even as a child she went to church every Sunday. She took her daughter to mass that Christmas. Everyone was singing, her daughter joining in as well. When the music stopped, Chelle, standing on the pew, shouted “SING! Everybody sing!” Kathy realized then, that “God was there with her.”
Pardo eventually remarried and had her son Jay. Through trips to the emergency room with her own children, she realized that she “may be too radical for a career in nursing,” and began to work towards certification as a licensed ambulance attendant. Attending Northern Michigan Community College, she got her EMT license plus worked for the Commission on Aging and ran a day care from her home. Pardo always felt her children to be her priority, many times dropping them off or needing to pick up her children from school in an ambulance. Pardo credits former bosses with their support in allowing her to work and care for her children.
It was on one of her ambulance runs when she contacted the doctor of a deceased patient and he was unable to respond. Dr. Gosling asked Kathy if she would do the investigative work for him. That was her initial introduction to being a Medical Examiner.
During her work for North Flight, she suffered an injury causing her to be unable to walk. Doctors offered little hope. Determination and a strong will helped her to regain her strength and ability to walk again. During this period, her marriage dissolved.
In 2007, Kathy married Jesse Carlson. He passed away March 2019 after a battle with cancer.
After being kept awake for several nights by a feral cat crying outside her home, Kathy erroneously thought she could take care of the problem with a dish of chicken. The next night he brought back friends. Realizing the village had a serious feral cat problem, she spoke to the village council requesting help with spay and neuter costs of those she could catch. The village council provided $1500 to One Love towards those efforts.
Pardo currently pays for food, litter, spay and neuter, immunizations, as well as vet bills. Most expenses are covered by her personally. To date, she has rescued and adopted out a total of 211 cats within the village of Roscommon. She can care for and feed as many as thirty cats at a time, and works with all the local rescues. Kathy is always in need of bedding, food, litter, cat carriers, and any other aids to help with this effort. Anyone wishing to help with donations may call or text her at 989-889-5776.
Whether human or feline, Kathy Pardo-Carlson provides aid to many in distress, calming the chaos.