About 20 years ago, resident Rob Hanlon headed out with the to what would become the only call like it in the rescue squad’s history.
On that evening, Hanlon said, he helped deliver a set of twins.
“That was definitely different, and it was the only birth the rescue squad dealt with in 60 years,” he said. “I got an award for that that year. It was not a call you get very often.”
Now Hanlon, and his mother Judy, have both received awards for 30 years as members of the Bradley Gardens Rescue Squad.
Rob Hanlon joined in 1982 after several of his friends encouraged him to get involved.
“I had friends on the squad who brought me to the department and showed me around,” he said. “I was in high school at the time and it was with my friends.”
And from there, Hanlon said, he brought his mother in too.
“He called me and said I had to see what it was like,” Judy Hanlon said. “It was about community service for me.”
Over the years, the two have increased their responsibilities with the rescue squad, and have gained more knowledge about ways they can help.
“There were fewer requirements in training in the 1980s, with different levels,” Rob Hanlon said. “There was EMT, CPR and First Aid, and then they developed more training.”
Hanlon said he worked his way up through the command structure, and was chief for 25 years, finishing in 2009.
For Judy Hanlon, she eventually became an instructor for the rescue squad academy in Hillsborough.
And aside from their volunteer work in the rescue squad, both Hanlons have jobs that allow them to serve the community.
Rob Hanlon works for the Bridgewater Police Department investigations unit as a firearms investigator.
Judy Hanlon works for the county, specifically with surrogates, adoption and probate wills, in addition to working with those who are mentally incapacitated.
“It’s funny how that happens [with community service],” she said.
As part of the squad, Rob Hanlon said, the department covers a large swath of Bridgewater, mostly residential areas from the Branchburg line to Raritan, and north up to the highway with Route 22 and Route 28.
“It is the whole west area of the town,” he said. “And 30 years ago, we had half the residents we have now.”
For Hanlon, who grew up in town, it has been interesting to see the changes in Bridgewater.
“I have watched it grow, even as I served with emergency management for the township and county,” he said. “We have grown from an eight-person to a 40-person squad with more advanced equipment.”
“It is nice to have been part of this expansion,” he added.
Judy Hanlon said she moved to town 46 years ago, when her husband was working for American Cyanamid.
“Then he started his own business,” she said of the electrical motor repair business for which she did paperwork. “Rob was his glue, always learning.”
“But we have always been in Bradley Gardens,” she added.
Rob Hanlon said he likes the feel of the town, and that’s what has kept him in Bridgewater his whole life.
“I like the community,” he said. “It’s small and quiet. I left for a year here and there, but I always came back.”
“And Bradley Gardens is a small community with new people and a lot of older folks,” he added. “There is history to this community and not a lot of industry. It is a quiet place.”
Over the years, as part of the squad Hanlon said, he has received several awards, which has been nice, but not necessary.
“There have been some awards for outstanding service, and five-year incremental awards,” he said. “They are saying thank you to us.”
“We have plaques all over,” Judy Hanlon added with a laugh.
In addition to his work on the squad, and 14 years spent as part of the , Rob Hanlon said he was also in charge of coordinating service from Somerset County on Sept. 11, 2001, because he was working in emergency management at the time.
Hanlon took care of arranging ambulances for standby, and when the call came in, he immobilized them and went in to New York City to help.
“It was strange and a whole different atmosphere,” he said. “I tried to keep focused on what I was there for, and decided I would deal with the emotions later.”
“You have to separate emotions in that case,” he added. “You have compassion for the victim, but don’t let it become personal.”
For both Rob and Judy Hanlon, they have learned over the years that as difficult as calls might be, they have to focus on taking care of victims and react on their own at another time.
“You can get upset later,” Judy Hanlon said. “You have to have someone who is not involved to talk through things.”
And, Rob Hanlon said, helping someone makes any stress worth it.
“I have handled a broad spectrum of death,” he said. “What makes it worth it is when you run into the person later, and you get a hello and a thank you.”
Hanlon said the Bradley Gardens Rescue Squad does handle some highways and industrial areas, but mostly residential with elderly people and others.
“That is a big part of our coverage area,” he said.
At a recent installation dinner, the Hanlons were honored by the department for their service.
“I don’t usually like being in front of people, but it was very nice,” Judy Hanlon said. “It was a nice job of honoring people.”
Rob Hanlon said it is nice to have that recognition.
“People appreciate what you do, and you don’t always see that,” he said. “It is nice to hear back from others, especially as a volunteer.”
Still, both Rob and Judy Hanlon have seen changes over the years with the growing department and town in general.
Judy Hanlon said, especially as one of the teachers, she has seen all the changes in training, equipment and much more.
“I learn more things, and I know because I am teaching everything,” she said.
Rob Hanlon said he has seen an increase in calls, from 100 a year when he first started with the squad, to about 600 a year now.
“Bradley Gardens is the oldest squad in the town, it was incorporated in 1950,” he said. “It was really started by the guys in the community because they wanted something to do. We started with an ambulance in someone’s garage.”
But most importantly, for both Rob and Judy Hanlon, it is also about helping others and being active in the community.
“I have been everything but chief, but I never want that,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a lot of responsibility, but Rob has put in a lot of time and that makes me proud.”
Rob Hanlon said he has found a love of community service, especially as he is still active and focusing more on the operational side of the squad instead of going on calls as often.
“I hope people see the services that are provided by volunteers,” he said. “If you don’t support them, it will dwindle away.”
And Judy Hanlon said it takes a lot to become a volunteer.
“You have to be a different kind of person to belong to a squad and go through the training,” she said.