OXFORD – A local police officer and EMT who devoted his entire life and career to public service and saving lives has died at Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital in Binghamton. The family of Ed Ulfik of Oxford was expecting a much different outcome that never materialized and is, just as the community he relentlessly served, now left with a prodigious void to fill.
Aside from the obvious struggle that Ulfik’s family and friends are left reeling with, a certain degree of irony in the events and circumstances that led to the 33-year-old’s death makes the unsettled outcome of this story an even more compounded heartache.
Ulfik, a lifelong public servant, had no medical coverage. A week prior to Ulfik's untimely death, his mother, Catherine, with the persuasion of fiancée Tiffani Rombach, pleaded with him to seek medical attention after Ulfik reluctantly informed them of some pain that he had been dealing with in his left calf muscle.
“He didn't want to be a burden, didn't want to be part of the problem,” said Ulfik's mother, “He was a stubborn and proud man and it took everything I had to convince him that he needed to go to the hospital and get it checked out,” she added.
Elizabeth, sister of the deceased Ulfik, said, “I just remember him always being there for other people when they were in need.” She continued, “I also remember having a very candid conversation with Ed. I was reading the blotter paper and asked myself, 'How can people live like this, why do people do these things?' He (Ulfik) overheard me and simply said, 'We're not those people, we're not built like that,' and he was right,” she said.
By all accounts, Ulfik was the rarest type of person. Often he displayed his philanthropic integrity out of uniform and off the clock, assisting those displaced by flood and fire with essentials and seeking donations for the disadvantaged.
“He was just an all around great guy,” said Daryl Prindle, full time Firefighter and EMT with the City of Norwich Fire Department. “His friends knew that they could always count on him if they needed help for anything.”
“It's just a very tough thing to understand,” said Prindle of Ulfik's lack of medical coverage, “I feel that if Ed had proper insurance, he would have been more apt to go get the therapeutic treatment that he needed before this became a life-threatening situation. It's very sad and my heart goes out to his family.”
Prindle mentioned that Ulfik sustained a broken ankle nearly five years ago and underwent orthopedic surgery to repair the damage. “This is when he first started battling the blood clots; and also started overlooking his health problems due to the combination of health care expense and lack of insurance.”
“I think that it should be an automatic thing,” said Ulfik's mother, “If you are a police officer or EMT and you put your life on the line – whether you're full-time or part-time – the village or municipality should have some have some kind of (medical) coverage on you; it should be a given that if you become ill while on the job, you should have some type of medical coverage.”
Ulfik was 14 years old when he started out as an explorer with the Village of Oxford Fire Department, “By age 18 he was promoted to a full-fledged volunteer fireman for the department,” said Mrs. Ulfik. From there, Ulfik worked for a short period as a Chenango County Dispatcher at CCSO and put himself through the Police Academy, looking to diversify his career in the public service sector.
It should also be noted that Ulfik, at the time of his death, was also a Lieutenant with the Town of Chenango Fire Company and First Lieutenant with the Village of Oxford Fire Company.
As a police officer, Ulfik took a job with the Village of New Berlin Police and later the Village of Oxford Police where he was employed at the time of his death.
A gofundme.org web fundraiser has been established with the initial intent of helping to defray Ulfik's medical expenses.
While Ulfik is now deceased, the community is still able to donate to the fund and proceeds will be utilized in paying for funeral arrangements and services.
In addition to the web fund, a spaghetti dinner that was planned more than two weeks ago will go on as planned, and organizer Brittany Hand said that the funds raised from that event will be allotted to Ulfik's family to use for funeral services and other end-of-life care costs.
The dinner will be held starting at noon and continuing until 6:30 p.m. on April 5 at the Chenango Fire Company, 86 Castle Creek Road Binghamton NY, 13901. Take out can be reserved by calling 772-8212.
For further information, see the obituary section in today's edition of The Evening Sun.