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Life stories with Lisa Anderson

For some people, a catastrophe can result in putting us on a totally different path in life. Such is the case for Sue Gallagher.

Born in Old Bridge, Sue spent several years in Livingston before moving to Wall with her family in 1974. A graduate of St. Rose High School, Sue went on to work at NJ Bell Phone Company in Freehold for two years. It was a typical day at work when Sue found herself sitting in the cafeteria at work thinking “Is this it? Is this where I really want to spend my days?” Having recently taken the Strong Campbell test at Brookdale Community College, Sue thought about the results that stated she was best suited to be a farmer, a teacher or a military personnel. She immediately got up and went to the local recruitment center during her lunch hour, signed up on the spot and within a month was off for a five year stint as a Personnelman 2nd Class Petty Officer in the US Navy. Sue followed in her Father’s footsteps, him being a former Navy Seabee.   Stationed first in San Diego, Sue then spent time in Mississippi, Spain for two years and finally at Bolling AFB outside of Washington DC.

Upon being discharged in 1986, Sue returned to Spring Lake Heights and shared a place with a friend. Two weeks after coming home, Sue went on a blind date where she met her future husband Kevin, a carpenter. They married in 1991, and bought a home on Wall Road in Spring Lake Heights. Sue and Kevin immediately began renovating the home which was built in 1928, top to bottom…electric, plumbing, everything redone, a project that she calls a “true labor of love.”

It was during this time that Sue and Kevin found out that sadly they could not have children of their own, but without hesitation discussed adopting. One day while Sue was at work as a computer programmer at Prudential in Holmdel, she heard a commercial on the radio for Bethany Christian Services adoption agency in Hawthorne. She contacted them to begin the adoption process and she and Kevin were put on a waiting list for a child. Within three years, they were picked and approved seven times, all seven times the birth mother and father changed their minds. Sue decided she could no longer bear the frustration and asked the agency to remove them from the waiting list. But soon after, Sue received a call at work on Feb. 6 and was told a child was available and ready to be adopted. “I remember screaming and throwing the phone in the air, then realizing I had three days to prepare!” Sue says. On Feb. 9, baby Rebecca came home. Sue calls her daughter “beautiful in every way..she is my miracle.” In 2001 Sue and Kevin added a second story addition. When Sue and Kevin divorced in 2007 Sue decided she would stay in the house with Rebecca.

When Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, Sue and Rebecca volunteered at the Toms River East shelter, opening their home to two women who had lost theirs. Little did they know, that two days shy of a year later, they would be the ones needing a place to live. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in October of 2013 Sue and Rebecca left home for a church barbeque. As they were driving home that evening, both their cell phones began going crazy with calls and texts. Friends were calling to tell Sue that her beloved home was on fire, and frantically trying to find out if Rebecca was still in the house.

Sue remembers feeling a sense of numbness, followed by “it’s okay, we’re okay and that’s all that matters.” A neighbor had been watching television when he saw the smoke, and with the help of a neighbor, they tried to enter the burning house, fearing Rebecca was inside, but the smoke was too intense. The scene was surreal, recalls Sue. Firefighters, first responders, police, along with most of the neighborhood. “I had the most amazing people around me” says Sue. Once the fire was put out, Sue and Rebecca sadly realized their kitten Leo had succumbed to smoke inhalation. Eventually they were able to actually walk in the house and retrieve what little they had left. Neighbors spread family pictures on their lawns to dry, and Sue was grateful that Rebecca’s Christening dress and her Navy uniform were both salvageable.

In the months that followed, Sue recalls a scene not unlike that of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” “My entire family and community literally lifted us up and carried us. They provided food, clothes, monetary donations, support and love.

“I never realized I had so many friends, some I didn’t even know.. too many to mention. It was an incredible act of kindness that my daughter and I will never forget. I’m eternally grateful to Chris Campion from Eastern Fire and Safety in Wall who donated and installed an entire fire sprinkler and alarm system so we could feel safe along with the crew at Capoano Builders from Toms River. They saw we were in trouble and stepped up and helped in every way possible.” The outpouring of love and her strong faith made her realize that looking back, the fire that ravaged her home was in fact a blessing in disguise. “God definitely repositioned me.”

Soon after moving back into their home in February of 2015, Sue decided to launch her own business to help people be prepared in the event of a catastrophe. She created Inventory Solutions of NJ for homes and businesses. “It differs from Insurance in that we perform personal property inventories for home and business owners by both paper and digital photos and records, giving peace of mind in knowing that your property and your legacy are protected. Realistically, most of us can’t remember everything we own.”

Sue hopes to help others who suffer the loss of their home or business by making the recovery process much easier. “It’s bad enough when something like this hits you, the last thing you need is added stress.”  You can visit Sue Gallagher’s website @ www.Inventorysolutionsnj.com.

Lisa Anderson is a radio personality on Greater Media’s radio stations WJRZ and WRAT. She is also a columnist for Greater Media Newspapers. Lisa may be contacted at landerson@greatermedianj.com.

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