Farewell to a fighter

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By NI­COLA STE­WART

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.

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