Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - DWAYNE GRANT dwayne.grant@news.com.au

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.


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