Firefighter farewelled in street parade
Senior station officer ‘Batesy’ passes away after an accident at home
Wanaka Volunteer Fire Brigade senior station officer Warren ‘‘Batesy’’ Bates was farewelled by family, friends and colleagues last Thursday afternoon with a poignant funeral parade down Ardmore St.
His widow, Justine, and sons Nick, 14, and Liam, 10, were earlier presented with the brigade’s life membership during a crowded funeral service attended by hundreds of friends and colleagues.
Wanaka’s chief fire officer Bruno Galloway said he had been looking forward to presenting the gold star 25-year service award to the 45-year-old stone mason in August.
Bates died after an accident at his home last weekend. He was being transferred by ambulance from Dunstan Hospital to Dunedin Hospital when he passed away on Saturday.
His death was sudden and unexpected and Galloway said Bates’ character, quick wit, sense of humour and rabbit patties would be sadly missed by his colleagues.
Bates had a 100 per cent attendance record this year and had won the attendance award with 100 per cent contributions in other years.
"He was passionate and dedicated to the fire brigade. It was a big part of his life and we thank Justine and the boys for allowing him to give so much time to the community,’’ Galloway said.
Wanaka JP and brigade secretary Ralph Fegan acknowledged the ‘‘sea of blue’’ firefighters from around the district.
Bates had "gone in a heart beat’’, which "completely knocked the bloody socks off everyone’’ leaving many feeling like "stunned mullets’’, Fegan said.
Reality only started to sink in when Fegan and three companions, struggling to find a key to access the flag post outside the fire station on Sunday, went down to the Wanaka cemetery and "pinched’’ the RSA flag post to run a flag at half mast.
After that poignant moment, his first thought was ‘‘bugger, no more rabbit patties at fire brigade functions. They were legendary and there would be scraps over them’’, Fegan recalled.
Nick and Liam Bates have pledged to stand in for their dad and provide patties at a future brigade function.
The tributes were many. Few moments in Batesy’s life were wasted and his activities with his wife and children were the highlights.
Bates went to Wanaka Area School and had worked as a stone mason and blocklayer since he was a teenager.
He joined the fire brigade in August 1991 and moved gradually through the ranks to be appointed senior station officer in 2009.
He was responsible for updating the brigade’s SMS data records and attended almost every fire call and muster, except on his wedding day, when his mother Glenys had to restrain him.
Bates was a keen hunter and – excluding the executive committee – was the first person to become a member of the Upper Clutha Deerstalkers Club.
Bates helped build the club’s shooting range and was a generous provider of wild food for events, president Malcolm Mitchell said.
"He was a major part of our club. Our first member and first to pass away,’’ Mitchell said.
Missed: Mourners form a guard of honour at the funeral of Wanaka firefighter Warren Bates.