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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

2nd Surprise Salute to Heroes

By Jennifer Ersalesi

Photo Credit: Bonnie and Michael Corcoran

On Saturday, May 9th, the Borough of Rutherford took part in it's second Surprise Salute for Heroes. Normally these Salutes will occur on Sundays, but since Mother’s Day was on Sunday the Salute took place on Saturday.

This week family members of some of our town’s heroes nominated them for this special surprise. Firetrucks, police cars, ambulances, and a number of other vehicles participated in a caravan that visited the homes of Enid Casiano, Lauren Connallon, Tina Gemelli, RFD Deputy Chief Dennis Gentile, and Debbie O’Neill.

Enid Casiano, RN at Chilton Hospital in Pompton Plains, was nominated by her husband Matt. Enid has shown true dedication to her profession and has been a warrior in the battle against COVID-19. She is recognized as a hero to her husband, her two sons, and all of the patients that she cares for as a selfless, caring nurse.

Lauren Connallon, RN in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) at Hackensack University Medical Center for fifteen years, was nominated by her husband Mike. Lauren has been caring for COVID-19 patients and is a wonderful, compassionate nurse. Lauren also has two boys and is a hero to them as well.

Tina Gemelli was first a cardiac technician at Holy Name Hospital. When the Pandemic became prevalent, Tina’s department was closed at Holy Name Hospital and she was recruited to serve in the Intensive Care Unit where she is dealing with COVID-19 patients. Throughout her time working in the ICU, she has faced the loss of many colleagues and their family members whom she cared for personally. Despite all of these tragedies, Tina continues to compassionately and competently care for all of her patients.

Deputy Fire Chief, Dennis Gentile, was nominated by his wife Sandra. Dennis has been part of the Rutherford Fire Department for twenty-nine years. He also works for the Rutherford Department of Public Works, serves as a Park Ranger, helps different organizations in town, coaches, and assists members of his community in many other ways. Dennis is a hero to his wife, his two sons, and his community. His oldest son is also a fireman (Dennis Gentile, Jr.). Dennis is a hero to his wife and two boys, but also to the community.

Debbie O’Neill, resident of Rutherford for twenty-two years, serves on the Rutherford Board of Health Committee, the Rutherford Food Pantry Board, and is the Vice-President of the Rutherford Irish Association. Debbie was nominated by her husband, Patrick, for her selfless commitment to her profession. Debbie is an RN at Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus. Originally, Debbie was a nurse in Morristown Memorial Medical Center working in a Medical/ Surgical Unit. After having children and wanting to be closer to home, Debbie continued her career at Clara Maass Medical Center and St. Mary’s Medical Center before working in a Same-Day Surgical Unit at Hudson Region Hospital. When the Pandemic hit our region, Debbie volunteered to work at the Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, caring for patients stricken with COVID-19. While working with those patients, Debbie even spent time (off-duty) calling to check on her patients and keeping family members updated.

The Borough will continue with this program on Sundays and is currently accepting nominations of Rutherford residents who are a positive force in the fight against COVID-19. If you know a local hero who you believe should be recognized with a Sunday Surprise Salute caravan, please send your reasoning and your contact information to

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1 Comment

Michael Gemelli
Michael Gemelli
May 12, 2020

Thanks so much for sharing this story and to everyone who made this such special day for all of our Hometown Heroes.

I would just like to clarify my wife Tina's job at Holy Name Medical Center (HNMC). She has been a Registered Nurse (RN) for the past 15 years and before that a Cardiac Technician for 10 years, for a total of 25 years of service to HNMC.

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