Farewell to a fighter
Tirau Volunteer Fire Brigade farewelled its former chief fire officer, mentor and ‘‘ solid rock’’ on Thursday.
Gary Yorke, a dedicated member of the brigade for three decades, died on April 7 after a short illness.
Chief fire officer Jim Phillips and station officer Mac McLean said Gary was a highly respected member of the fire service. ‘‘He was a solid rock to the Tirau Volunteer Fire Brigade,’’ Mac said. ‘‘We could all look up to him.’’ Gary made his final journey to the Tirau Fire Station on the brigade’s original fire truck, following a procession of fire appliances and police cars.
The 1935 Ford truck had still been in commission when Gary joined the brigade on July 4, 1983.
‘‘It was fitting that he started on the old truck and he went out on it,’’ Mac said.
‘‘Over the last two years Gary spent quite a bit of time on that truck, restoring it to the standard it is now,’’ Jim said.
‘‘He took pride in that and it became a fitting send-off.’’
In his first years on the brigade, Gary became involved with fire service driving competitions, along with Colin Crampton.
‘‘One year they took out the whole competition between the two of them,’’ Jim said.
Then, about 24 years ago, he was badly injured after falling off a horse and spent many months in the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit.
‘‘The doctors told him he wasn’t going to walk again,’’ Jim said.
‘‘But through stubborn determination, he defied all the odds and walked out of hospital.
‘‘After he came home, we teed up a crew to go to his house and put all this firewood away for him but, lo and behold, they arrive there to sort it out and there’s Gary, stacking the wood away himself.’’
He soon returned and joined the Fire Police Unit, though he never rode the trucks again.
He was secretary to the brigade from 1995 to 2004, and again from 2006 to 2007, and knew the fire service ‘‘backwards and forwards’’.
‘‘He really had his finger to the pulse,’’ Jim said.
From 2002 to 2005, he served as deputy chief fire officer, then in 2007 he was made chief fire officer, a position he held for two years.
‘‘He was a great leader,’’ Mac said.
‘‘What he said he meant. No trouble there.’’
Gary was presented his Gold Star for 25 years’ service to the Tirau Volunteer Fire Brigade in 2008.
He retired from the brigade on July 7 of last year – three decades and three days after he first joined.
‘‘He was a very private man but the fire brigade, and his family, were his passion,’’ Mac said.
‘‘He has left a big hole in my life. ‘‘He was a bloody good mate.’’ Gary is survived by his wife, Margaret, their three daughters, and two grandchildren.
Rest in peace: Gary Arnold Yorke. BELOW: Gary Yorke makes his final journey to the Tirau Fire Station on the brigade’s original 1935 Ford fire truck.