‘I’M SO GRATEFUL HE CHOSE ME’
A BRAVE Reen Mercer yesterday paid tribute to the love of her life and father of her four children, Dean Mercer, as the surf lifesaving community farewelled one of its greatest ironmen. “I could not have dreamt of a better man to be the father of my children,” Reen, above with son Brayden, 13, told more than 1000 mourners. “I’m so grateful he chose me.”
REEN Mercer is a private woman. She also happens to be an incredibly brave one.
On an occasion where countless widows have crumbled before even the smallest of congregations, the woman who loved Dean Mercer more than any other strode to the lectern, looked out at more than 1000 people and opened her broken heart to the world.
“I’d like to thank you for all the love and support through this time,” she began. “Our family is overwhelmed and forever grateful.”
From the moment her ironman husband suffered a cardiac arrest while driving 11 days earlier, Reen had been able to grieve behind closed doors.
Just her, her dearest friends, her most loved family members and, of course, her four beautiful boys.
Now, with hundreds of people having streamed into Carrara’s Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre for the 47-yearold’s funeral, every eye was on her and how she responded will live long in the memory of every person there.
For more than eight minutes, the woman who once ruled the waves as an ironwoman wowed the masses with a tribute fitting of the man she so desperately wanted to grow old with.
She recalled when she was Reen Corbett and there was an “undeniable spark” with the man known as ‘Deano’ as they each chased surf sports success.
She relived when he asked her out for dinner during a promotional tour but she knocked him back in favour of the novelty of hotel room service.
She then said what everyone knew – they were meant to be.
“We had known each other a few years but once we got together things happened pretty fast,” Reen told a crowd including greats Guy Leech, Shannon Eckstein and Ky Hurst.
Standing by his mother’s side as she spoke without a pause, let alone a tear, was a 13year-old boy who did his old man proud yesterday.
Brayden is the eldest of the Mercer boys, a big brother to 11year-old Rory, Lachlan, 9, and little Joshua, 6. For almost two weeks, the four little men have been in the arms of countless loved ones and the thoughts of even more strangers.
“Since retiring (from competition), Dean had dedicated himself to his boys’ pursuits,” family friend Ian Hanson said in the eulogy. “Being a proud husband and father was where (he) excelled once again.” That’s how it was yesterday. For every tale one of several speakers told about Mercer’s prowess as an athlete – his friendship and rivalry with brother Darren, his two national ironman titles, his love affair with the Coolangatta Gold – the narrative would flow back to Reen and their boys.
“We spent a lot of time together as a family and (Dean) also made sure he spent oneon-one time with all of them,” Reen said.
For so long she didn’t crack, speaking with a strength few have, let alone are able to find.
Then she mentioned Mercer’s heart, that massive heart that allowed him to conquer the greatest of sporting peaks – and ultimately felled him.
“Dean’s huge heart is what he was known for,” Reen said. “He had a heart of gold. His heart gave him so much and allowed him to give so much.
“It’s ironic, yet somehow fitting …”
She paused. She rested her head on her son’s shoulder. About 1000 people held their collective breath – and, like her husband did so many times, she found a way to keep going.
“… (yet somehow fitting) that it stopping has now changed everything.”
More than eight minutes after beginning, Reen delivered her final words – “We will miss you so much”. She then turned to her 13-year-old, who stepped up to the microphone.
“You were the best dad in the world,” young Brayden said before sharing a tribute on behalf of his little brothers.
He was brave, he was strong, but you know what they say – like mother, like son.
DEAN’S HUGE HEART IS WHAT HE WAS KNOWN FOR ... IT’S IRONIC YET SOMEHOW FITTING THAT IT STOPPING HAS NOW CHANGED EVERYTHING. REEN MERCER