• This Is Rutherford

Third Surprise Salute to the Heroes

Updated: May 20

By Jennifer Ersalesi and Kim Bogosian

Photo credit: Kim Bogosian


This past Sunday, May 17th, a caravan of over fifty vehicles, including fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars participated in the third Surprise Salute to Heroes parade, which honors First Responders in our town.


One of the First Responders recognized, Elizabeth Paskas, was nominated by her daughter Amaya, for her service as a nurse who has been treating COVID-19 patients at Hackensack University Medical Center. Throughout the past few months, Elizabeth’s experiences have been physically and mentally hard on her and her daughter thought that this tribute would bring her joy and encouragement. Photos of Elizabeth's son, daughter Amaya, Elizabeth, and Mayor Frank Nunziato below.

Michael Jay Guevarra was nominated by his sister Ives Santos. Both Jay and Ives are both healthcare workers at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in East Orange in the Emergency Department, however, Ives has been out on maternity leave since December. Ives nominated Michael for his work as a medical support assistant to our veterans. She explained that he treats his patients with dignity and compassion, especially during this very difficult, scary time.

Michael Jay Guevarra, his son, and Councilmember Tom Mullahey

Janet Calhoun and Therese Hoff were nominated by Brian O’Keefe, Rutherford's Health Official. Both Janet and Therese work at the Rutherford Health Department as public health nurses. They have worked most days, including weekends, during this pandemic crisis. Between the two of them, they have over 43 years of experience in public health. Janet and Therese have been following up with residents on their positive COVID-19 test results and providing information on how to reduce the spread of this virus. Their prior knowledge of the NJ State Department of Health Communicable Disease Reporting and Surveillance System (CDRSS) where all COVID-19 test results are entered state-wide has enabled Rutherford's local government to provide daily updates about the number of COVID-19 cases to the Rutherford residents. Photos below: Therese Hoff and Janet Calhoun. Also pictured: Councilmembers Stephanie McGowan and Tom Mullahey and Mayor Frank Nunziato.

Proud mom, Christina Keegan, nominated her twenty-three-year-old daughter, Megan Keegan, who is currently an RN/ BSN at Englewood Hospital. A few months ago, Megan contracted COVID-19 and since her recovery, she has been back at work helping patients suffering from the virus. Her mother spoke of Megan’s dedication and selfless sacrifice to the nursing career she has chosen. She also commended Megan’s willingness to go back to work as soon as she had recovered which shows her true compassion for her patients, as well as her strength and bravery.

Christine Keegan accepting Megan's certificate.

Mary Alice Moller, nominated by Missy Scanlon, has almost thirty-three years of experience caring for patients and has been trained extensively in pre-op, surgery, and recovery. Since 2006, she has worked at the Valley Hospital Luckow Pavilion elective surgery unit in Paramus. However, as the COVID-19 cases increased in our area, she was sent to work at the COVID-19 patient care unit at the Valley Main Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ in March. Her husband, Rich, children, Abigail, and Andrew, are all extremely proud of their mom, a hero.

Mayor Frank Nunziato and Mary Alice Moller

Michelle Dunn is an Emergency Room nurse at Hackensack University Medical Center. Michelle works the night shift and has been working up to five or six twelve-hour shifts per week during this pandemic. Michelle was nominated by Colleen Fencik and Marisa Ackermann. Not only does Michelle provide medical care, but she also provides emotional support to her patients who are alone in the hospital suffering from the virus. She also makes sure to communicate with her patients’ family members to keep them informed about their loved ones. She is selfless; the needs of her patients come before her own. Michelle also works as a swim coach at the Rutherford High School pool. As part of the Dunn family, Michelle joins both her mom, Paola, a longtime crossing guard at Washington School, and her father, Thomas, who was a dedicated firefighter who died in the line of duty in 1994 in working to help others. First photo: Paola holding up a sign for her daughter and the second photo: Michelle, Councilmember Stephanie McGowan, Paola, Mayor Frank Nunziato, and Councilmember Tom Mullahey.

As the COO at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Patricia (Pat) Carroll has been working eleven to fourteen-hour shifts over the past few months. Walter and Roseanne Carroll nominated Patricia for her dedication to the staff at the hospital. She spends time on the front line with the doctors, nurses, and patients and works hard to care for both the staff and patients at the hospital. She was nominated for her selflessness, generosity, compassion, devotion, and dedication.

Patricia Carroll

Reverend Pete Wilkinson, minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Rutherford, was nominated by longtime parishioner and friend, Bonnie Sheppard. Bonnie wished to recognize Reverend Wilson’s efforts to ensure that his church members (over 250) are safe and that their needs are met. He has also been working with church members to assist others in Rutherford and surrounding communities. As someone who comforts and cares for so many people, Bonnie believed that a Salute from the town would boost his spirits.

Reverend Peter Wilkinson

Kathleen Porro nominated her sister, Susan Smith, a lifelong Rutherford resident who has been an x-ray technician for almost thirty years at Hackensack University Medical Center. Since the pandemic crisis began, Susan has been taking x-rays of patients in the hospital who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. She also works in the Diagnostic building outside the main hospital where she takes x-rays of patients who might have COVID-19, as well as those who are checking on their recovery via x-ray technology. She has worked hard without complaining and has provided her patients with compassionate care. In the photos below: Councilmembers Tom Mullahey and Stephanie McGowan, Mayor Frank Nunziato, and Susan Smith.


Annabella Belleza Yalong has been a Registered Nurse (RN) at Hackensack UMC-Palisades for thirty years on the telemetry and ICU floor. Annabella’s daughter, April Yalong, nominated her mother. Annabella took care of her husband who had tested positive for COVID-19 and has been working her overnight shifts at the hospital. She has been incredibly stressed, but also resilient, according to her daughter. Although Annabella loves being a nurse, this has been the toughest situation she has dealt with during her career. Annabella lives with her husband, her two younger daughters, and their dog Auggie. April, her oldest daughter who lives with her husband and son, has found the saddest part of this situation has been that Annabella has not been able to spend time with her first grandchild, April's son. First photo: Annabella Yalong, some of her family members, and Councilmember Thomas Mullahey. Second photo: April, Annabella's grandson, and son-in-law.

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 jbagnuolo@rutherfordboronj.com.