Historical Photos: Aetna Ambulance Service #9

HARTFORD —Unknown date (presumably early to mid 1960’s) and unknown location (although somewhere in Hartford). Howard Grady is visible working to move a patient with the assistance of bystanders. Many historical photos that revolve around trauma include bystander help and assembled crowds.

Aetna Ambulance Historical Photography Hartford

Historical Photos: Aetna Ambulance Service #8

HARTFORD — Dated from 1950 and appearing in the Price and Lee Company catalog directory, this ad declares Aetna Ambulance, “A service that’s right Day or Night.”

Interesting to note that we still operate an exchange that ends in 6792.

Aetna Ad 1950

Hartford Hospital ED Presents Plaque Dedicated to Aetna and the Grady Family

HARTFORD —  A plaque commemorating Aetna Ambulance and the company’s founding family, the Grady’s, was unveiled at a June 11, 2014 ceremony at Hartford Hospital’s Emergency Department. The plaque hangs in the ambulance triage area.

Remarks thanking the Grady Family and Aetna Ambulance for their contribution to EMS in the area were made by Chief Emergency Physician Dr. Jeff Finkelstein. Ms. Diane Evans, the daughter of Howard and Ethel Grady, was on hand to represent the family and accept the plaque. Photos and light refreshments followed.

Learn more about the history of Aetna Ambulance and the Grady family here…

Thank You Letter Invokes Aetna Founder Jean Grady

Aetna Wallpaper 2Please forgive the lateness of this note, but understandably, I have been dealing with a lot on my plate. My sister passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly on January 31st. Luckily, I was with her and was able to call for an ambulance. Aetna Ambulance responded as well as the Hartford Fire Department. I can not praise your company enough. Everyone was so professional, yet caring. I was completely overwhelmed by the whole experience. They recognized this and acted accordingly.

I had a personal connection to the Jean Grady, the previous owner of Aetna, so everything came full circle. I was also born and raised in Hartford and was never prouder of my hometown on that day. My son-in-law just started his own ambulance company in South Carolina. When I recounted my experience, he was so proud to be a paramedic and company owner.

Thank you to all that you do and a special thanks to the men that responded to Franklin Avenue on that day.


Sister of Patient — #14-9217

Letter appears with permission.

Campbell and Mathiau 2Crew: Matthew Campbell and Kevin Mathiau (again)


The Hartford Circus Fire and Aetna Ambulance: Volume 7

efe459069aby Sam Porcello

Miss earlier volumes? Click here…

The fact that the business grew and continues to be strong today is a testament to the hard work and ingenuity of this family.

Thank you to Aetna Ambulance and the Grady family for all of your support and your patience, providing photos, information and answering all of my questions.   Mrs. Grady and her daughters even came to cheer me on at the Regional competition!  Mr. Titus’ first-hand account of the fire was chilling.

After advancing through the Regional competition at Torrington High School in March, I participated in the State History Day competition at Central Connecticut State University on April 27th.  During the interview portion of the state competition, the judges were intrigued by the photo of the two “doctors” loading a patient into an ambulance, and specifically asked about them.

The Hartford Circus Fire and Aetna Ambulance: Volume 6

by Sam Porcello

Miss earlier volumes? Click here…

bb20d332c8One of the things that surprised me the most during my project research was the fact that the Gradys concealed their ownership of Aetna Ambulance, afraid that, 20 years before the Civil Rights Amendment, people would be reluctant to do business with African Americans.  As Mrs. Grady recounted:

“(My family) found it difficult to get loans to finance their business.  My dad was a local artist and would use what money he received from selling his paintings into the ambulance business.  He was also a barber!  They would conceal their ownership in the following ways: 1) By calling their business Aetna [ostensibly named, with permission, after the insurance company that they worked for] instead of Grady Ambulance because they knew that the general public would probably not do business with them because of the color of their skin; 2) When they appeared in photographs together helping patients they were careful not to have their names recorded or their actual relationship to the business recorded.  People would believe that they were only the ‘ambulance attendants’ which was the intention.”

The Hartford Circus Fire and Aetna Ambulance: Volume 5

by Sam Porcello

Hartford Circus Fire - Aetna Ambulance Service, Inc.Miss earlier volumes? Click here…

Mrs. Grady was really helpful and supportive, and provided me with photos and additional information about her family. She also referred me to Robert John Titus.  I was fascinated to learn how the Grady brothers, who received some basic medical training in the Navy, were inspired to begin a full time ambulance company following the Hartford Circus Fire.  They saw a need for the service, and became only the second private ambulance company to serve Hartford.

More importantly, Aetna Ambulance was the first private ambulance company in Hartford to provide formal medical training to its employees.  The Gradys didn’t stop there, reaching out beyond Hartford to help train other ambulance services.  Mrs. Evans wrote to me that:

“My Aunt Jean was a member of the Red Cross and was a medical instructor. She helped state wide ambulance employees including Ambulance Service of Manchester, Wethersfield and Rocky Hill Volunteer Ambulance Service members retain their licenses…as Emergency Medical Technicians.”

A Note About Aetna Ambulance’s Past

Aetna Ambulance Service, Inc.

I was surfing the Internet and chanced upon Aetna Ambulance’s page. I was sorry to learn of the passing of Herman and Jean Grady. I knew them back in the late ’70s and early ’80s when I was employed as Communications Coordinator for the North Central Connecticut EMS Council. Of all the ambulance providers I knew and worked with, they were about the nicest and most cooperative folks you could ever have hoped to meet.” 

– Michael McMurtrey, Carrollton, TX

Learn more about Aetna’s history here…