The local fire service farewelled one of its most long standing and respected members recently with a celebratory afternoon tea.
Retiring chief fire officer Frank Mackereth devoted almost 60 years to serving the Hibiscus Coast community as a firefighter.
He joined the Silverdale Brigade on February 25, 1959 and retired on February 25 this year. Along the way he was recognised with a Queens Service Medal and moved up through the ranks, holding the position of deputy chief fire officer for 37 years until he was appointed Rodney chief fire officer in 2002.
More than 100 invited guests attended his official farewell at Orewa Arts & Events Centre on March 3, including Waitemata area commander Denis O’Donoghue, deputy chief fire officer Shayne Kennedy and representatives of the local Police as well as members of Frank’s family, life honorary members of the fire service and colleagues from the Silverdale and Manly brigades who served with Frank over the years.
Tea in vintage china cups and cake stands filled with treats created an elegant send off – with not a beer in sight. A ‘This is your Life’ style video was screened, along with speeches and the presentation of gifts that included an airbrushed fire helmet.
As a trained mechanic and plumber, Frank clearly loved all things mechanical – particularly his ride on mowers. However, although many spoke of his ability to fix almost anything, which was invaluable, especially in the early days of the local fire service, colleagues also noted that he was unfortunate enough to be involved in no less than seven fire truck crashes.
He only called the fire fighters to his own home once, when two of his children, Keith and Alison, were young. They were playing with matches in the basement and set fire to a car that Frank had hoped to restore. Fortunately no-one was hurt.
Frank saw the Silverdale service grow from small beginnings as a rural service where fires were mainly scrub and grass fires around baches. “When I first started we had nine to 12 callouts a year,” Frank said. “Now they get the same number per day, on average.”
He said another big change is that most of the callouts were fires, whereas now local fire fighters are mainly first responders for medical assistance as well as dealing with issues related to storm damage and flooding.
One reason Frank stayed with the service for so long was his involvement with training and mentoring recruits, as he loved watching young people grow in the service. How deeply this is appreciated was reflected in speeches at the farewell function. Among the most heartfelt was the one given by Frank’s son, Vaughan who remembers accompanying his father on the fire truck as a lad and is now Waitemata assistant area commander. He spoke of his father’s calm and practical presence in any situation, noting that both local brigades will miss that leadership.
He said his father’s work ethic has been hard to follow, and that he’s been an inspiration.
“Enjoy your retirement, Dad – you’ve bloody well earned it,” Vaughan said.