Aetna Ambulance Service, Inc. was founded in 1945 by the remarkable Grady brothers in response to the Hartford Circus Fire on July 6, 1944, a tragedy that claimed over 100 lives and injured hundreds. Brothers Herman and Howard Grady later joined by their wives Jean and Ethel Grady founded the company, creating one of the first minority-owned ambulance services in the country. The successful business has continued to fulfill a vital public service while retaining it’s rich diversity and exceptional medical care. It is a point of pride for Aetna employees we continue this tradition to the present day. uAt a time when World War ll was still in progress, the arrival of the Barnum and Bailey Circus was a big event with no exception to the city of Hartford. The attraction provided excitement in difficult times. The crowd was made up of mostly women and children as many of the men were away fighting in the war. The large Circus tents were set up on Barbour Street in Hartford. At the time the tents were made out of canvas and it was common to use paraffin, a combustible material, to make them water repellent. The fire led to the national prohibition of canvas tents coated with paraffin. uBrothers Herman and Howard Grady had both been Corpsmen in the Navy where they trained in first aid that would prove valuable in treating and caring for the injured. The Grady Family owned a flower shop on Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford and would later run Aetna Ambulance out of their family home. At a time before television, people listened to the radio and when word of the fire was announced, a call went out for anyone with a truck or vehicle to respond to the scene to help transport the injured to the hospital. The Grady family immediately used their delivery van to assist and transported many. The Grady Family was deeply moved by the tragic event and the great loss of life in the Circus fire. They recognized a need for a full-time ambulance company in Hartford and went on to start their own in 1945, more than 10 years before the civil rights movement took hold in America. They possessed a deep commitment to help those in need, commonly being called out of family events, holiday dinners in inclement weather. The Grady’s also taught first aid classes to help educate others and serve their community. Aetna is proud of its dedication to Emergency Medical Services and it’s distinction in medical transportation.
“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