By Elaine Van Develde
With the line officers in the Fair Haven First Aid Squad all women for 2016, we are reminded that it was not all that long ago that it was just men in the squad — really, until the 1980s.
Yet, there is another attribute of first aiders, among other emergency responders, that is worthy of mention. Many times, the calling to help the community is a family affair.
So, in line with honoring Fair Haven first aiders of the past, the focus for today’s Retro Pic(s) of the Day is switched to the men of the Fair Haven First Aid Squad and fire company, some of whom have passed, but kept the calling all in the family (through the women as well).
So, we begin our tribute to family ties in emergency response with the Lang family.
Jeff Lang, an RFH 1978 grad and forever Fair Havenite who joined the fire company in 1977, was a special kind of person. He was an easy going guy with a big heart and lots of love and loyalty to his community.
He was also a longtime family friend, classmate, neighbor and like a brother to this editor. Jeff Lang passed away suddenly in December of 2005. The loss was a devastating one to many.
The image of him bolting down the street to get to a first aid call is one that will stay emblazoned in the minds of many, as will his smile and even-keeled, compassionate manner.
“Jeff was part of a family that has given tirelessly to our community,” said Jack Mulvihill, 2006 fire company president said in a 2006 Fair Haven Fire Department newsletter.
“It saddens us not to have Jeff’s smiling face around here,” said Dave Binaco, 2006 president of the First Aid Squad in the same newsletter. “But he showed us how one person can make a difference, and we’re moving on to fill the vacuum his loss has created, just as we know he’d want us to do.”
Jeff was captain of the squad in 1997. His dad, Bill Lang, was twice chief of the Fair Haven Fire Department and once captain of the First Aid Squad in 1972.
Bill is still with us — and spunky as ever. And, he, a proud lifetime member of the Fair Haven Fire Department and longtime volunteer who makes his way back home whenever he can to check on things his hometown, has always taken his “job” of looking out for friends and neighbors pretty seriously.
You know he’s around when you hear his comforting chiding or raspy chuckling from his rocker on his front porch or a beep and wave from the car as he passes by your house. This past Halloween you could catch him on his spot on the porch giving candy out to the kids, asking them if they got over to the firehouse to for cider after the parade. Each comment was followed by some teasing that the kids really didn’t understand. But, hey, he was back in his element and happy.
He is a beloved Fair Haven character who spent many years in service to the borough, not only in the fire company and first aid squad, but as a fire inspector as well.
Jeff’s mom, Barbara, was an active member of the Auxiliary and worked for the borough as secretary to the building inspector for many years.
Then there’s Doug, who you can always find at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair selling those 50/50s. Janet and Scott, the other two Langs, live out of state, but make their appearances in their hometown now and then, and it’s always a heartwarming comfort like having a bowl of chicken soup on a cold day to go back home with any or all of the Langs.
I get a lot of ribbing to this day from Bill Lang should I forget to beep when I pass by and he’s home or, God forbid, tell him I’ll stop by and forget or get distracted with, of all things, this work.
My dad was his buddy. When he died, Mr. Lang automatically took on the responsibility of “watching out for” my family. And don’t think I don’t still hear an old-time consoling “What would your father think?” “Your father would be proud,” “Did you eat lunch yet?” “Who was that who was over your house the other day?” “Atta girl,” “Where are you going now?” or the now infamous “Sure, you’ll be right back! When? Where are you going?”
I always get a “What’s that job of yours?” too. I have valiantly tried to explain to him what this Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect website is; and, as soon as I explain it, he asks what my job is again.
I, along with many others, miss that perpetual protective nature from these two former First Aid Squad men. They cared. They were always watching over the community, their neighbors. And they were right there to make sure no one gave anyone they loved, like those steeped in the community for decades, any newfangled nonsense or pretense.
Sometimes I still think I see Jeff Lang bolting down the street to get to a first aid call and help someone. I still see his smile. I still have an image in my mind of him taking a walk down the street and hearing, “Hey, neighbor” with a smile.
I miss hearing that beep a few times a day, signaling that someone’s there always looking out for me. And sometimes, just when I think I’m seeing or hearing things, the beep is back and I hear a hearty laugh, see a wave and hear, “Hey, I know. I’ll be right back!”
To one of the Langs: Read this to him. Don’t bother explaining what this site is again. Tell him he (and all of you) is appreciated now and always was. Oh, and tell him I’ll be right back!