Salute to brigade 'granddad'

ALASTAIR PAULIN
Last updated 13:00 03/09/2012

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The beloved "granddad" of the Takaka Volunteer Fire Brigade was sent off in fitting style as Takaka stopped to mourn George Duff.

He had been a member of the brigade for 41 years and in his final weeks, his long service was celebrated. He was awarded a Tasman District Outstanding Community Service Award and a few days later, the Takaka brigade presented him with a certificate inscribed with the words, "for being a genuine good bastard".

Keven Hebberd, the deputy chief fire officer of the Takaka Volunteer Fire Brigade, said the whole brigade was called to parade with Mr Duff acting as the boss, who was then given his award.

"He was just humming - he loved every minute of it."

On Friday, Mr Duff's casket was carried from his house to his funeral at the Takaka fire station on a 1943 Ford fire engine, driven by senior firefighter Garth Prince, with Mr Hebberd and senior station officer Alan Reid riding along.

Mr Prince and Mr Duff joined the brigade on the same day 41 years ago, said Mr Hebberd.

He said Mr Duff was a granddad figure who passed on his years of experience to the whole brigade. He was a Rural Fire Service member, served under six different chief fire officers and ran and judged Waterways competitions for 17 years. He was also a life member and past president of the Nelson Marlborough Provincial Fire Brigade Association and the Nelson Fire Brigade sub-association.

Mr Duff's wife, Laurelee, was as much a pillar of the fire brigade as her husband, said Mr Hebberd.

He estimated that about 700 people, more than twice the expected number, showed up at the fire station for Mr Duff's funeral, and several shops along Takaka's Commercial St were closed out of respect, as the procession went past.

As the hearse left the station, the fire siren went up and down once. " That was the biggest tear jerker for the whole brigade," said Mr Hebberd.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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