Health & Wellness

Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad’s First Female Member -- A Scotch Plains Resident -- Retires After 45 Years

Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad President David Sloan presents Marie Keller with an award recognizing her 45 years of service at the squad's annual dinner dance. Credits: Jackie Lieberman

WESTFIELD, NJ — Recently honored for 45 years of volunteer service to the Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad, Marie Keller reminisced about her experience as the first-ever female member of the squad.

In the early 1970s, Keller and her husband, Bill, were raising their three sons and one daughter in Westfield. Keller had always enjoyed helping people and was looking for somewhere to volunteer her time while her kids were in school. After reading in a local newspaper that the rescue squad was looking for volunteers, she stopped in one day only to be told, “We don’t have women on the squad,” she said. But she was told to come back later in the day when the shift changed, and when she returned, it seemed something had changed.

“I didn’t want to just answer the phone,” Keller explained. “I wanted to actually join the squad. Once they made the decision to allow me, as a woman, to join, they did what they could to make me comfortable. Soon after joining, I was elected daytime lieutenant, which meant that I did all the scheduling. Eventually I was elected the first female deputy captain.”

Sign Up for E-News

The one problem with being a woman at that time, Keller said jokingly, was that “the uniforms were always too big on me.”

Keller remembered how, in her early days on the squad, some of the squad members owned shops in town. The merchants often filled in during daytime shifts, with the ambulances picking them up at their stores when they needed an extra hand. The daytime volunteers shifts are the most difficult to fill, she said.

For eight years, Keller spent some of her time answering the phones for the squad, and some time both riding and driving the ambulance to help residents with medical emergencies. For a while, she even kept the ambulance parked in front of her house on occasion, and would head out in it when she received a call. After she was injured and hospitalized when a driver hit the ambulance Keller was riding in with a patient, she said she had a wakeup call.

“I still needed to be there for my children, so we couldn’t really take the chance of anything happening to me while I was volunteering,” she said.

Keller still continued with the rescue squad, but was back in the squad building. She was eventually named chief dispatcher, handling phone emergencies from Westfield residents, sending the ambulance out and giving tours to groups of children after school.

“I kept busy doing what I loved, and this wouldn’t interrupt my home life,” Keller said. Occasionally, people would drive themselves to the squad building in town.

“I remember one incident where a man had lost several fingers in a snow blower,” Keller recalled. She used this incident as a reminder: “It’s very important that people don’t come down to the rescue squad. Let them come to you.”

Keller’s children were all proud of her, and she said that they still tell people that their mother was the first female member of the Westfield Rescue Squad.

“Of course, now it doesn’t make much difference if you’re a woman,” said Keller, “But back then, they didn’t have to let me on.”

After her children were grown, Keller said she got a job, but was still able to continue volunteering for the squad when she had time.

Keller now lives in Scotch Plains with her husband, and just recently retired from the Westfield Rescue Squad after 45 years. She continues to volunteer locally in a nursing home.

To learn more about the WVRS, visit their website at and watch our video, Ride Along with the Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Scotch Plains/Fanwood

Westfield Family Continues ‘Summer of Kindness’ with Infant Clothing Drive

July 12, 2018

WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield mom and teacher Sara Liptack is continuing her family’s “Summer of Kindess” with an infant clothing for Furniture Assist, an organization in Springfield that helps formerly homeless people, veterans, the elderly, fire victims, refugees and people fleeing domestic violence.

“I said, ‘What’s the one thing you really ...

It's Not What You Are Eating, It's What's Eating You


Emotional eating can be described as episodes of binge-eating, grazing and/or eating when not hungry to soothe feelings. Emotional eaters have a pattern of eating to cope with stress, emotional conflicts and problems of daily life.

Emotional eating is eating for reasons other than hunger. Instead of physical symptoms initiating the eating, ...

Let's Talk About Suicide

In our world today, it seems our children, no matter the town, state, education, family unit, socioeconomic background, ethnicity or religion are grappling with complex, confounding and complicated issues not even fit for a middle-aged adult. Sadly, one of these issues is suicide. With mental health gaining more attention, the stigma appears to be dissipating but when a mental health ...

What Is Your Bottom Line?

This week's Parshah (Torah reading) is the Parshah of Pinchas the Zealot: the courageous young priest who stood up against idolatry and immorality and, in the end, saved Israel from a devastating plague.

While Pinchas' radical response made him a hero worthy of having a Torah section named after him, we wouldn't necessarily suggest to our children ...

State-Imposed Affordable Housing Requirements Will Lead to Overdevelopment in Scotch Plains

July 17, 2018

Dear Editor:

There will be a public hearing in Trenton concerning the affordable housing process on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the State House Annex (131-137 W State St, Trenton, NJ 08608) in Committee Room 16 on the 4th floor.

This hearing is hosted by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, and the Committee will receive ...

When to Dial 911: Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Tip of the Month

July 10, 2018

There are many times you should call 911. If you or someone around you is in true medical distress, such as experiencing difficulty breathing, chest pains, bleeding, possible stroke, or any other serious health issues, then 911 should be called as soon as possible. If there are wires down, fire, a crime in progress, or other dangerous conditions to people or property, call 911 ...

Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey Encourages Family Fun with Online Fishing Tournament

July 16, 2018

MILLBURN, NJ — The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) is asking families to cast their lines and reel in some quality time this summer as part of the fourth annual Don’t Get Hooked on Drugs Online NJ Family Fishing Tournament.

The competition will be held from July 27 to August 5 as a way to encourage families to enjoy a day of fishing, while giving ...

Upcoming Events


Wed, July 18, 6:00 PM

Scotch Plains Public Library, Scotch Plains

Youth Chess Club at Scotch Plains Public Library

Arts & Entertainment Education


Mon, July 23, 8:00 PM

Scotch Plains Public Library, Scotch Plains

View the Night Sky at the Scotch Plains Public ...

Arts & Entertainment Education


Wed, July 25, 6:00 PM

JCC of Central NJ, Scotch Plains

The JCC’s Barracudas Swim Team Meet the Coaches ...