In April of 1942, the Lake Hopatcong Fire Association was established; and in May, they became Jefferson Township Fire Company #2*. Four years later in 1946, relatives of the firefighters and other interested women established the Ladies Auxiliary with a mission to provide support and assistance to their volunteer fire company members and the Lake Hopatcong community.
In 1946, the firefighters moved out of their first firehouse, a shed known as Tierney’s Corner, now the site of the McDonald’s Restaurant on Route 15 South in Lake Hopatcong. A new firehouse was constructed across the street at the corner of Route 15 South and Edison Road on property donated by Ellen Tierney Briggs’ family and it became the permanent firehouse.
Briggs, a life member of Company #2’s Ladies Auxiliary and involved in education in Jefferson Township for 42 years, and principal of the Consolidated Elementary School on Route 181 (later named the Robert Drummond School and now the Board of Education offices) retired in 1960. Recognizing her contributions to the township, the Board of Education named a school located on Espanong Road The Ellen T. Briggs Elementary School.
Former Company No. 2 Chief Ron Anzalone told The Jefferson Chronicle that most of the firehouse’s records were lost during the flood of 2000 as well as a pipe break later on, destroying everything that the auxiliary stored in the building. However, based on the available information and the recollections of several people, some history about the women of the auxiliary has emerged.
Martin Kane, President of the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum and a published historian, shared an entry dated July 30, 1949 in The Lake Hopatcong Breeze noting that Frances Guzvich was the organizer and president of the auxiliary in 1946. While the entry indicates that she retired from the position after serving a three-year term, Kane refers to another Breeze entry dated July 8, 1950 stating that the auxiliary elected its new officers and Guzvich was elected president again. Fellow officers were Vice President Beatrice Martin; Secretary Mae Jackson, Financial Secretary Mae Riechhart, and Treasurer Lillian Boos.
Wayne T. McCabe, a Sussex County historian, reported in an article in the NJ Herald that in 1948 Lillian Boos was the Postmaster of the seasonal post office in Sperry Springs, a summer colony in the Borough of Hopatcong at the north end of Lake Hopatcong and the south shore of Byram Bay. Larry Terricone, a member of the Lake Hopatcong Memories Facebook page, adds that Boos also lived in Sperry Springs with her husband and possibly her niece. The Boos’ house was also the general store and served as the post office; and behind the structure, there was a big lot with three summer rental units and a few trailers. Also in 1948, The Breeze reported that the auxiliary held a food sale at the firehouse and a dance at Smitty’s Tavern in Woodport.
In another Breeze report published in July of 1956, Kane cites that an installation dinner was held at the Hob-Nob Restaurant in Hopatcong (later known as Blue Coyote, then Roma Garden, and most recently Lakeside Grill) for newly elected President Ferne Shilling, Vice President Elsie Kreissig, Treasurer Eleanor Moore, Financial Secretary Jule Kish, and Secretary Alice Koning. Once again, the auxiliary is reported to have held its annual food sale at Tierney’s Corner. However, a 1959 souvenir journal indicates that Mae Reichardt was Vice President and Helen Kish was Treasurer at the time. Members are listed as Elsie Kreissig, Eleanor Moore, Millie Amato, Mary Behler, Mrs. Martin Brown, Josephine Gable, Marie Quinn, Helen Romanosky, Ann Ryan, Ellen Seidel, Loretta Webb, and Mary Whritenour.
Company #2 Auxiliary and the Jefferson Rescue Squad are connected in history, according to another article Kane found. When Squad membership was low and unable to meet the rising demands of the community, Captain Tom Schilling, Sr. (1959-63) admitted members of the auxiliary as squad members. By 1964-65, the Squad opened its membership to all men and women, even if they were not fire department members.
While there seems to be a significant information gap about the auxiliary from the 1960s through the 1970s, Peg Patrick recalls that she joined the auxiliary in the fall of 1983, her friends Rosemarie Gerber and Judi Condit were already members, and Pat Mannerberg was president. She remembers participating in the Jefferson Rescue Squad’s Carnival selling sausage and pepper sandwiches in the food tent. When the Carnival ended, the group raised funds selling Italian ices at the Fire Company’s Flea Market at Firemen’s Field on Route 15 South, ran spaghetti dinners and corned beef and cabbage dinners for St. Patrick’s Day; and for years, they held flower sales for Easter and Mother’s Day.
Patrick reminisces about the parades they participated in wearing their uniforms alongside the uniformed Company 2 firefighters, the most memorable of which was a parade in Hackettstown. The women have had different uniforms over the years, but Patrick said she still has her original one hanging in her cedar closet.
Always ready to assist in an emergency, Patrick remembers providing food and water whenever there was a major fire and will never forget Hurricane Irene in August 2000 that caused flooding and power outages as well as significant damage to roads and bridges in Lake Hopatcong. Utilizing the food stand that the firefighters usually ran during their flea market, the auxiliary was called upon to help feed volunteers from area fire departments who came to assist with the cleanup.
Former Lake Hopatcong resident and Jefferson Township High School alumnus Greg Holt shared information from Fire Company No. 2’s 50th anniversary commemorative book published in 1992 listing Helen Romanosky, Ginny Cunningham, Cecelia Scott, Carol Cassata, Sharon Ryan, Linda Verrinder, Barbara Roberts, Pat Mannerberg, Alma Moran, Patti Chapman, Betty Marshall, Ellen T. Briggs, and Fern Schilling as Life Members.
That anniversary book also lists that in 1992, Adrienne Analzone, Eleanor Cornish, Mary Ellen Degroat, Valare Jacoby, Brenda Kanis, Bonnie Lambert, Jayne Longo, Pat Mannerberg, Erica Patrick, Peg Patrick, Rosemarie Peterson, Lucy DeLoreto, Judy Romanosky, Beth Thompson, Karen Thornton, Robin Williams, and Lori Zinn were active members of the auxiliary. The 1992 ladies’ auxiliary officers were President Pat Mannerberg, Vice President Brenda Kanis, Secretary Rosemarie Peterson, Financial Secretary Adrienne Anzalone, and Treasurer Mary Ellen Degroat.
Kane located an entry in the LH! Weekly (published between 2010 and 2013) that the auxiliary was instrumental in assisting Fire Company No. 2 with its first 5K Inferno Run/Walk fundraiser to benefit their 2011 Scholarship Program by handing out water to the runners and walkers to keep them hydrated.
The current officers of the auxiliary are President Sandy Loiacono, Vice President Jennifer Patrick, Treasurer Lucy Kienzien, and Secretary Aleyna Mannerberg (a fourth-generation member). Membership currently stands at 20 members, including inactive members. The Auxiliary meets on the third Tuesday of every month at the firehouse located at Route 15 South and Edison Road, and President Loiacono welcomes any woman to become a member.
Over the decades, it’s evident that the women associated with Company No. 2 have worked tirelessly for decades hosting special events and raising money for the firehouse. During wet downs, a festive volunteer fire company ritual to commission a new fire apparatus by anointing it with water sprayed from visitors’ firefighting equipment, the Company No. 2 Ladies Auxiliary have sold 50/50 raffle tickets and commemorative mugs.
For three years, the auxiliary ran an annual live decorated Christmas wreath sale but discontinued it due to rising shipping costs. Since 2012, the auxiliary has been hosting semi-annual craft and vendor fairs to raise money; and their fundraiser An Afternoon of Messages from Heaven with a psychic medium and a spiritual artist has been very successful. In conjunction with their spring 2019 vendor fair, the women hosted a stem cell donor drive through “Be the Match” to bring awareness that stem cell donations result in transplants that cure various serious diseases. Their upcoming spring craft and vendor fair will be on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 3.
In February 2019 at the 66th annual installation dinner of Fire Company No. 2’s new line officers, the Ladies Auxiliary presented a check for $2,000 earmarked for renovating the firehouse’s downstairs bathrooms and adding to their Jefferson Township High School Scholarship Fund. The auxiliary also recently contributed funds towards the purchase of new chairs for the firehouse.
Together, the Ladies Auxiliary members look forward to continuing to serve their community, supporting their firehouse and its firefighters, and celebrating their 75th anniversary next year.
* Their sister company Jefferson Township Fire Company #1 is located in the Milton/Oak Ridge section of the township.
Sources: Martin Kane-Historian, Author, and President of the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum; Sandy Loiacono; Jennifer Patrick; Peg Patrick; Patricia Mannerberg; Wikipedia; the Lake Hopatcong Breeze; LH! Weekly; NJ Herald-November 7, 2017; the Lake Hopatcong Memories Facebook page postings of Greg Holt and Larry Terricone; The Development of Jefferson Township 1700-1900; Ron Anzalone, Paul Mannerberg