Fallen firefighter hero was ‘just my husband’
HE WAS hailed a hero when he died battling fires in the South Peninsula earlier this year but this weekend helicopter rescue pilot Willem Hendrik “Bees” Marais’s wife remembered him as “just my husband”.
Marais and other firefighters who battled the blaze that ravaged the area four months ago were honoured by the Kirstenbosch Lions Club on Saturday.
Marais was a freelance helicopter pilot for Working on Fire and died in March when he was forced to make an emergency landing while battling fires that destroyed over 5 000 hectares of land.
His wife Jackie accepted the Louis Volks Award given to acknowledge her husband’s work.
The emotional widow accepted the award saying: “To me he wasn’t a hero. He was just my husband.”
“He spoilt me rotten, I really miss him,” Jackie added.
The Louis Volks Award is the highest Lions Club honour in South Africa and is named after a founding member.
Lions Club is an international volunteer service organisation and has around 1.4 million members globally.
The ceremony doubled as the Kirstenbosch Lions Club’s annual Presidential Induction banquet.
The second award was given to the Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service and Volunteer Wildfire Service. It was accepted by Cape Town fire chief Ian Schnetler and Jon-Jon Emary.
When receiving the award Schnetler said that firefighters did not see themselves as heroes.
“The toughest part of being a fireman is deciding to enlist. The rest of it is just another day on the job,” he said.
Emary thanked the city fire and rescue service for working with them and also acknowledged the citizens of Cape Town for their support.
At the banquet, Kirstenbosch Lions president Sundru Pillay also announced the establishment of the Jack Segall Bursary Fund, named in honour of one of the club’s charter members and a leading member of the legal fraternity, who died last month.
The fund will be launched officially at the club’s Women’s Day event on August 8, which was kicked off on Saturday with a R60 000 boost from leading courier company Courierit.
In addition, the club inducted as members on Saturday the consul-general of India, Puneet Kundal, and his wife Dr Arunthathie Kundal.
HONOURED: Firefighter Willem Hendrik ‘Bees’ Marais’s wife, Jackie, accepts the Louis Volks Award from Kirstenbosch Lions Club president Sundru Pillay.