Watchung Rescue Squad

Watchung Rescue Squad's 26th Annual Tree of Lights Festival

The 26th Annual Tree of Lights will once again light up the Village Green this holiday season. Please join us for the festivities on Saturday, December 3rd starting at 5:30 PM. (Rain/snow date December 4th).

The Rescue Squad is proud to illuminate the holiday tree, and thanks to Garden State Fireworks, the skies will light up with a spectacular fireworks show.  You can be part of the celebration by placing a red light on our tree in honor of or white in remembrance of a person, family, friends and others. 

The names of honorees and remembrances will be posted on the illuminated display on the Village Green in time for the ceremony for those dedications received by November 30th.  The display and our website will be continually updated throughout the holiday season.  The dedications can be seen below.

To place a light on the tree, please complete the Dedication Order Form and mail it along with your tax-deductible donation of $50.00 per light in the envelope provided.

Your contribution to the Tree of Lights is not only a symbol of your feelings of gratitude and love, but also serves to help the Watchung Volunteer Rescue Squad with major endeavors.  This year, through the generosity of the residents and businesses, the squad continues to provide high-quality, excellent Emergency Service.  Thank you in advance for your continued support and contributions.

To learn more about the Squad contact us at or call (908) 755-1297.  For information about becoming a member, click on Join Us and email with any questions!

The members of the Watchung Rescue Squad dedicate this year’s Tree of Lights in recognition of three Watchung residents, Walter Niegisch, Claire Ohl, and Stephen Gussis, who dedicated their lives to serving their country, their community, and the Watchung Rescue Squad.




  • Ambinder, Lloyd
  • Arthur, David & Bill
  • Arthur, William & Annette
  • Bitenas Family
  • Borno, Rolande
  • Botts, Mr. and Mrs. L.
  • Braulke, G.
  • Caldas Family
  • Cardinal, Franchesca
  • Cardinal, Renata
  • Chudasama, Manjula
  • Cua Family
  • Cubberly Family
  • DelVento Family
  • DiGiacomo Family
  • Docarmo, Dennis
  • Doyle, Simon and Family
  • Drejka, Bill & Michele
  • Falanga Family
  • Fine Family
  • Friedman, Bruce & Jody
  • Friedrich, Joseph
  • Funk, Ed & Marie
  • Gatti, Joseph
  • Giaiano, Richard and Family
  • Goldman Family
  • Hauck Family
  • Hemsworth, Scott
  • Huska and Molitoris Families
  • Kellogg, C. Burton
  • Lewis, Thomas
  • Liu, Lori
  • Longworth Grandchildren: Laurie, Jenna, Leela & Devin
  • Manhardt, Fairfax
  • Mattiassi Family
  • McCumber-Anderten Loving Parents
  • McCumber, J & B Grandchildren
  • McDonals Whaley Family
  • Miller Family
  • Motta, John
  • Niegisch, Eleanor
  • O’Connor, Terrence
  • Petrock Family
  • Pote, Donald
  • Reale Family
  • Rebmann, Helen
  • Reddy, Rama Vijaya

  • Rybkiewicz Family
  • Santangelo, Giuseppe
  • Santaniello, Family
  • Schachter Family
  • Schlotterbeck Family
  • Scotti, Don
  • Shapiro Family
  • Sharkey, Ruth & Tom
  • Skorinko, George
  • Solazzo, Dr. Anthony & Mrs. Gina
  • Speeney Family
  • Staeger, Paul
  • Steinmetz Family
  • Stromsland Family
  • Tomasi, Jerome
  • Trabilsy, Albert
  • Trabilsy, Gloria
  • Van Milders, Martine
  • Walters, Richard & Veronica
  • Watchung Rescue Squad (3)
  • Watkins Family
  • Wunner Family
  • Zdatny Family


  • Addario, Sam & Sugar
  • Aldrich, George F.
  • Babinski, Claudia
  • Bailey, Dot & Bob
  • Barrett, Ralph & Ruth
  • Blumberg, Sandra
  • Bennett, Capt. Gordon William
  • Bradbury, Mabel & Ed
  • Braun, Joseph C.
  • Brody, Meredith
  • Brown, Matthew
  • Brunskill, Trevor
  • Buccarelli, Sally
  • Burke, Charles R.
  • Carlough, Billy
  • Carroll, Melanie
  • Celiberti, V & A
  • Cesaez, Joseph & Katarina
  • Chalker, David
  • Cohen, Larry
  • Confort, Philip
  • DeVito, Raphael
  • DeVito, William & Yolanda
  • Diem, Fred
  • DiNardi, Rina
  • Dworak, Winnie
  • Estefan, Joseph
  • Fechtner, Jerome
  • Flood, Paul, Bruce & Wayne
  • Flower, Henry
  • Fogel, Rose
  • Funk, Ed & Marie
  • Funk, Gail
  • Gadecki, Matthew
  • Gawenda, Ursala
  • Gerome Family
  • Glasser, George & Elizabeth
  • Greves, Nancy
  • Gussis, Steve
  • Hanlon, Helene & Kenneth
  • Harding, Louis R.
  • Hess, Barbara L.
  • Hetem, Charles J.
  • Hillman, Richard
  • Hoffstetter, Lucille
  • Ianniello, Paul
  • Ingrassia, Christopher Noble
  • Juette, Frieda
  • Kania, Michael & Anne
  • Kapoor, Dr. L. D.
  • Kapoor, Prakash
  • Kauffman, Arthur & Linda
  • Kavanagh, Jack
  • Kirpaw, John
  • Kriznansky, Elaine
  • Kriznansky, Milan & Martha
  • Laible, Evan
  • Longworth, Sheila
  • Malchow, Sylvia D. (2)
  • Moszczynski, Edward
  • Murad, Tajjammal
  • Niegisch, Walt “Grampy”
  • Nunn, Carrol & Leroy
  • Nuto, Carol June
  • O’Keefe, David F.
  • Ohl, Claire
  • Penn, Jack
  • Peto, Bill & Lenny

  • Pierson, Harold & Nancylee
  • Powers, Thomas R.
  • Puleo Family
  • Ray, Dave
  • Ray, Jack & Toni
  • Reagan, Brian & Kenneth
  • Reale, Anthony
  • Rebmann, Alfred
  • Roman, Irene
  • Romano, Marie & Charles
  • Ruckriegel, Helen J.
  • Rybkiewicz, Denis
  • Scarano, Vincent
  • Schaa, Fred
  • Schaa, Paul
  • Schaefer, William G. Sr.
  • Schley, Donald
  • Schley, Mary Catherine
  • Seidel, Al & Johanna
  • Shuster, Hazel W.
  • Smith, David & Mildred
  • Smith, Ginny
  • Smith, Robert J.
  • Smith, Virginia Lee
  • The Six Million
  • Stahl, Bruno & Barbara
  • Stambaugh, Robert
  • Titus, Bill
  • Townsend, Jim & Anne
  • Veterans
  • Weber, Max P.
  • Weiss, Jack & Elaine
  • Wheeler, Dit & Wink
  • Whitting, Philip
  • Wolford, Mildred & Harry


  • A & C Seafood Dist.
  • American Pension Corp.
  • Angelo C. Plumbing
  • Babygrand Entertainment
  • Buffalo Wild Wings of Watchung
  • Cronheim Co.
  • Garden State Fireworks
  • Kaleidoscope of Hope
  • Ovarian Cancer Foundation
  • Precision Tree Service
  • Rolf’s
  • San Remo
  • Schmiede Tree Service
  • Scott’s Green Landscaping
  • Stop and Shop
  • Tramz Hotels Group
  • Watchung Fire Department
  • Watchung PBA
  • Watchung Police Department
  • Watchung Public Works

Walter Niegisch

Walter Niegisch (1929- 2016) was born in Atlantic City, and grew up in Brooklyn, eventually attending Columbia University for his undergraduate and Stevens Institute of Technology for his graduate degree.  Walt served in the US Army from 1954-1956, where his scientific knowledge was instrumental in the development of food preservation.  After discharge, he worked for Union Carbide for more than 42 years as a research scientist.  Walt was an active leader in the Boy Scouts and his Church.

Walt joined the Squad in 1977 and was a Distinguished Life Member, as well as one of the first volunteer responders in New Jersey to earn his EMT certification.  He received a Community Service Award and the prestigious Governor’s Award. He was a pioneer in the development of the Squad’s extrication team, and served in many officer positions.  Walt had exacting standards and a great respect for getting things done the “right way”, working unremittingly on behalf of the Squad; it is with great honor that this year’s Tree of Lights shall be dedicated to his memory.

Claire Ohl

Claire Ohl (1929- 2016) was born in Newark, attended Montclair State Teachers College in 1941, then worked as a Technical Assistant Bell Laboratories before serving her country as a US Navy Wave in World War II from 1943-1945.  Claire returned to Bell Labs, then left the workforce to raise her two sons, finally becoming a Mathematics Teacher at Governor Livingston until her retirement. 

Claire joined the Squad in 1983, served as Treasurer for 22 years, and received every honor the Squad awards, including Distinguished Life Member and Lifetime Achievement. Claire’s contributions to the Squad were innumerable; she worked tirelessly to fight for what was best for the organization, at one time bringing it back from a state of financial depression.  Claire spent the later part of her life passing on her knowledge, financial expertise, and passion for service, bettering the organization, as well as the people who were a part of it; it is with great honor that this year’s Tree of Lights shall be dedicated to her memory.


Stephen Gussis

Stephen Gussis (1923-2016) was born in New Brunswick, and graduated from New Brunswick High School in 1942. In 1943, during World War II, he enrolled in the U.S. Air Corps, serving as a Staff Sergeant with the 20th Air Force in Guam, working on B29 Bomber engines until the war’s end.  After returning to New Brunswick, Steve obtained his barbering license and ran the Rutgers’s Campus Barber shop for many years.   He was an active member of his community, attending the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, and serving as Secretary for the local chapter of AHEPA.

Steve joined the Squad in 1988, actively riding the ambulance for many years and earning the Squad’s Outstanding Service Award.  Steve was instrumental in many of the unseen details that keep the Squad running, annually working diligently in the Finance and Audit committees.   Steve impressed the membership with his commitment and service; it is with great honor that this year’s Tree of Lights shall be dedicated to his memory.

History of the Tree of Lights and the "Original Tree Three"

Twenty-five years ago, Judie McCumber came back from a vacation on Martha's Vineyard and told the Squad she saw a great idea that we could use as a fundraiser - a Tree of Lights where residents could place a light on the tree for a donation.  She convinced then Captain, Shirley Cattabiani and Diddy Addario, President that it was worth pursuing.  Never mind that there was no Village Green or no tree in the gravel parking lot by the lake.  With Judie's persistence, Shirley's "can solve any problem" attitude and Diddy handling the town fathers for permission, a tree was brought it, set in a base and strung with lights.  The annual Tree of Lights was born.

Based on Judie's suggestion, the "original tree three" created a winter festival and fundraiser for the Rescue Squad that has become ingrained as a Watchung tradition.  The annual Tree of Lights ceremony originally took place every year on December 7th in honor of Pearl Harbor Day and in recognition of all those who lost their lives on that day and all the members of our armed forces who gave their lives fighting for our freedom.  Over time out of necessity, it was moved to the first Saturday of December.  For a donation your loved ones would be honored or remembered on the tree.  Red and white lights were placed on the tree: red in honor and white in remembrance.

Through the years, many others have kept the Tree of Lights going through their dedication and support, and we thank everyone who has participated either through their contributions in organizing and setting up the event, attending the lighting ceremony or making a donation for helping keep the tradition alive!