Fire­fight­ers’ trib­ute

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By EMMA WHITTAKER

THE late Meki Ta’ufo’ou didn’t know he was ter­mi­nally ill when he posed for a New Zealand Fire­fight­ers Cal­en­dar to help raise money for chil­dren with cancer.

He died just a few months later aged 30.

Now his old col­leagues from the fire ser­vice have joined forces with his part­ner Can­dace McNabb to do their bit for the Cancer So­ci­ety of New Zealand.

They’ll be hold­ing fam­ily friendly events at the Pon­sonby Fire Sta­tion where Mr Ta’ufo’ou worked on Satur­day and on Novem­ber 9 to raise money and aware­ness.

The Fire­fighter’s Ride for Cancer from Auck­land to In­ver­cargill is also on for the sec­ond time next month.

Mr Ta’ufo’ou died on Oc­to­ber 12, 2011. He’d been hav­ing stom­ach prob­lems since the be­gin­ning of the year which doc­tors thought were caused by an ul­cer.

It was Au­gust when stom­ach cancer was dis­cov­ered and by that stage it was too late.

The fa­ther of one was a keen tag and league player and was train­ing for a box­ing fight when he was di­ag­nosed.

He spent his last days work­ing through a bucket list.

A few hours be­fore he died he was sur­prised with a call from one of his mu­sic idols, Sha­nia Twain. The hook up was or­gan­ised by Ms McNabb. She is plan­ning to have a life-size cut-out of Mr Ta’ufo’ou made up to dis­play at the Pon­sonby sta­tion fundrais­ing days.

‘‘Peo­ple might recog­nise him, he was their lo­cal fire­fighter,’’ she says.

Later it will hang in her daugh­ter Layla’s bed­room – a per­ma­nent re­minder of the dad she lost when she was just 4.

‘‘Just so she can re­mem­ber how big he was.’’

Ms McNabb hasn’t let grief get the bet­ter of her.

‘‘Grief doesn’t kill you, even though some­times you might wish it would. If some­one you love has had the life they wanted so badly taken from them, you have to make damn sure you do the best to en­joy the one you’ve got. It’s the best way to hon­our some­one.’’

Mr Ta’ufo’ou’s pres­ence in the 2012 Fire­fight­ers Cal­en­dar also helped.

‘‘It was good to have him around, I’d go into of­fices and things and he’d be hang­ing there.’’

Ms McNabb is also plan­ning to ride a leg of the Fire­fight­ers’ Ride for Cancer.

Fire­fighter Rob Ap­ple­ton or­gan­ised the mo­tor­bike event for the first time last year in hon­our of a num­ber of col­leagues who have died of cancer.

Ms McNabb started rid­ing a mo­tor­bike af­ter buy­ing lessons for her and Mr Ta’ufo’ou as a Fa­ther’s Day present a few years be­fore he died.

‘‘He hated it but I got a mo­tor­bike any­way,’’ she says.

She also did the char­ity ride last year and has up­graded to a Honda

CBR600.

Photo: EMMA WHITTAKER

Spe­cial ride: Fire­fighter Rob Ap­ple­ton or­gan­ised the first Fire­fighter’s Ride for Cancer last year. In hon­our: Can­dace McNabb, right, is fundrais­ing for the Cancer So­ci­ety of New Zealand af­ter her part­ner Meki Ta’ufo’ died of the dis­ease. Fundrais­ing days are at the Pon­sonby Fire Sta­tion, 182 Pon­sonby Rd, from 10am to 2pm, on Satur­day and Novem­ber 9. There will be fire trucks and mo­tor­bikes to get photos with, face paint­ing, ice­creams, and fire ser­vice good­ies for kids. The Fire­fight­ers’ Ride For Cancer is on from Novem­ber 20 to 28. Visit ride­for­cancer.org.nz for more in­for­ma­tion, to sign up, or to spon­sor a

rider.

Meki Ta’ufo’ou: A shot of the fire­fighter from the 2012 New Zealand Fire­fight­ers Cal­en­dar taken just

months be­fore he died.

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