Police & Fire

Call to Duty for Somerville Firefighters: A Visit to NJ Firemen's Home

Somerville firefighters gather around former Somerville volunteers Charles Karbowski, seated left, and Alvin Falk, to his right. Credits: Ron Czajkowski
Rich O’Neill, former West End Hose Engine 3 chief and now director of the Somerville Firemen’s Museum, made the noisy 60-mile round trip to Boonton in the department open cab 1942 Mack pumper. Credits: Ron Czajkowski
Former Somerville firefighters Charles Karbowski, left and Alvin Falk were visited by 50 Somerville volunteers Saturday at the NJ Firemen's Home in Boonton. Credits: Ron Czajkowski
First opened in 1898, the NJ Firemen's Home in Boonton is the only licensed healthcare facility in the state dedicated to the men and women of the New Jersey fire service. Credits: Ron Czajkowski
Somerville West End Hose, Engine 3 firefighters David Vaughn, left and Glenn Thorne work the grill during Saturday's visit to the NJ Firemen's Home by 50 Somerville firefighters. Credits: Ron Czajkowski
Retired Somerville firefighter Alvin Falk enjoying Saturday's visit to the NJ Firemen's Home by 50 Somerville firefighters. Credits: Ron Czajkowski
Somerville firefighters visit with Charles Karbowski and Alvin Falk at the NJ Firemen's Home in Boonton. Credits: Ron Czajkowski


BOONTON, NJ - The call to duty Saturday for 50 Somerville volunteer firefighters wasn’t about responding to an alarm or a training drill. It was driving the half hour to the New Jersey Firemen’s Home here to host a memorable outing for those who served before them.

A caravan of Somerville’s “bravest” gave up a good portion of their day to hold a barbecue picnic and share good times with residents at the Firemen’s Home, the only licensed healthcare facility in the state dedicated to the men and women of the New Jersey fire service. Two former Somerville firefighters, Charles Karbowski and Alvin Falk, now reside here.

Established in 1898 and located on the spacious grounds of the former Lathrop estate, the Firemen’s Home provides long term care and residential health services to 68 retired paid and volunteer firefighters from each of the state’s 21 counties.

Sign Up for E-News

“We never want to forget these guys. Just being with them, especially our two men from Somerville, makes them realize that they are still a part of us,” said Lincoln Hose Engine 4 member and former department chief Pat Weston, one of the event’s organizers.

“We try to get up here every few weeks to take Charlie and Alvin out to lunch or dinner, but the idea to do something like this barbeque for all the residents started over a cup of coffee and grew from there,” added Weston.

Each of Somerville‘s four companies; Central Hook and Ladder Truck 1; Lincoln Hose Engine 4; West End Hose Engine 3 and Engine Company 1 had members attending the picnic. The companies came together as a department in the planning process and covered the event’s costs through a car wash fundraiser and individual contributions.

For Karbowski and Falk, their stays here allow them independent living under the umbrella of 24-hour, seven day-a-week medical, nursing, therapy, dietary and recreational services. Both said that the nursing care, setting and recreational opportunities give them security and a comfort level to their daily living experiences.

“It’s beautiful here, the care, the food, the exercise we get,” said Karbowski, a resident for the past four years. “And, today is something special. This picnic means a lot, I’m seeing guys from Somerville today that I haven’t seen for a long time.”

Falk, a relative newcomer having come here in January, echoed Karbowski’s comments. “Of all the places like this to go to, this has to be one of the best in the country,” he said, rating his overall experience here as “pretty damned good.” He recently has taken advantage of the exercise program and looks forward to an upcoming trip to see a Yankee game.

According the Firemen’s Home Recreation Director Monica Story, a number of departments statewide commit time and resources to host outings such as today’s barbecue for the residents. “We get tons of loyal support from departments from throughout the state.” she said. “Just like Somerville here today, they all treat these guys like family.”

Other activities available to the residents on a regular basis include: movies, concerts, board games, and field trips. Management oversight is provided by a 21-member Board of Governors, with one member from each county. Somerset’s representative is Tom Sutphen, who comes from generations of Central Hook and Ladder Truck 1 firefighters.

Licensed and inspected by the state, the cost of living at the Home is $850 a month per resident. According to Sutphen, the monies are raised by a 2 percent revenue tax on out-of-state insurance companies doing business here, and included in the state budget.

Along with sharing in abundant food, music and the telling of great stories about “the way things used to be,” the Somerville contingent plans to return soon to construct wheelchair accessible garden beds that the residents can put to good use this fall and next spring.

Rich O’Neill, former West End Hose Engine 3 chief and now director of the Somerville Firemen’s Museum, made the noisy, open-cab effort to drive the 30 miles to Boonton in the department’s “retired” 1942 Mack pumper. At the end of the afternoon, he reflected not only on his upcoming ride back to Somerville, but on the meaning of the day.

“For all of us here today, we came to give a little back,” said O’Neill. “No matter how you look at it, we are all brothers.” 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

South Brunswick-Cranbury

Police Blotter

South Brunswick and Cranbury Police Blotter

August 9, 2017

Sponsored by Reilly's Collision Center in Monmouth Junction. Click here and scroll down for the latest updates and alerts from South Brunswick and Cranbury Police.

See the most recent messages from South Brunswick Twp Police Department, powered by Nixle.

Rutgers voices support for proposed state budget

March 14, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers University officials have often been wary of the governor's annual budget message, wondering what type of budget cuts the university may sustain and how it would potentially impact tuition and the overall quality of education.

This budget message, delivered March 13, appears to be a sigh of relief.

Pete McDonough, Vice President of External Affairs at ...

Middlesex Democrats Endorse Menendez, Pallone, Watson Coleman, Rios and Narra

METUCHEN - The Middlesex County Democratic Organization today endorsed Robert Menendez for Senate, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Freeholder Director Ronald Rios and Freeholder Shanti Narra for the Board of Chosen Freeholders.  Over 300 committee people came out to participate in the convention. 

“From Washington to New ...

Nationally Recognized Golf Management Firm Billy Casper Golf to Oversee Three Middlesex County Golf Courses

CRANBURY - The Middlesex County Improvement Authority (MCIA) has selected innovative golf management firm Billy Casper Golf (BCG) to manage clubhouse operations at Middlesex County’s three golf courses in north central New Jersey.

One of the largest privately-owned golf course management companies in the U.S., BCG will use its proprietary staff training, marketing and other ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

Ian Hockley Visits New Jersey to Introduce Program to Empower Youth

This week I am taking a departure from book reviewing to share an important program that has been introduced to New Jersey this week by Mr. Ian Hockley, founder of the Dylan's Wings of Change Foundation. On December 14, 2012, Hockley's five year old son, an autistic child named Dylan, was gunned down in his classroom in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Dylan, a shy and adorable ...


March 16, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 16, 2018 – Despite her rhetoric, U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12, failed Wednesday to deliver on her promise to make schools safer for our children.

The two-term congressperson was one of only 10 representatives that voted “nay” Wednesday afternoon on the STOP School Violence Act of 2018.

The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a ...

Republican congressional candidate Daryl Kipnis For Congress Campaign Kickoff Reception

Come enjoy an evening on Farrington Lake in North Brunswick in support of the effort to elect Daryl in NJ’s 12th Congressional District and send A Force For Freedom to Washington.

*Dinner & Open Bar*

7-9 p.m.

Monday, April 9th, 2018
130 Washington Place
North Brunswick, 08902

$100 Ticket Price
$250 Silver Sponsor
$500 Gold Sponsor
$1,000 Platinum Sponsor
$2,700 ...

Celebrate National Ag Day at the Middlesex County EARTH Center

EARTH CENTER, NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - Consider this: just about everything we eat, wear and use comes from agriculture. That is why America’s farmers and their crops are celebrated each year on National Ag Day, which falls this year on March 20.


To honor this day, the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County has planned a new seminar entitled The State of ...