Thursday, 12 December 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Mark Cory-Wright awarded the Gold Star at emotion-filled celebration

Family, friends and colleagues gathered at Tairua Community Hall on Saturday evening to celebrate the awarding of the United Fire Brigades Association Gold Star to Mark Cory-Wright for his 25 years of service.

The senior station officer and his family were welcomed to the hall in style courtesy of a guard of honour formed by uniformed colleagues holding golf clubs. The nod to Mark’s favourite way to spend his downtime continued with Mark and Maria observing and participating in the formal speeches and presentations from their very special seats in a golf cart complete with a chilly bin of refreshments!

All of Mark’s 25-year service history was spent at the Tairua Volunteer Fire Brigade. The honour of pinning the Gold Star on his uniform fell to long-time friend and hose running partner, Deputy chief Rik Tawa who choked back tears as he relayed their history of competing together before Mark’s retirement in 2016. “You could not ask for a better teammate or a better friend.” Mark participated in a total of eight national hose running championships, the absolute highlight being returning to Tairua in 2011 with the National trophy and going on to compete in Australia as New Zealand champions.

Son, Kade, now working in immigration law in Wellington, described the fire station as a second home and the brigade as a second family. He recalled memories of, as a young boy, going out to the garage to time his dad as he practiced his hose running drills over and over. “Looking back, at the time I didn’t appreciate the spirit, the courage and the dedication. Now, when I think about it, I swell up with pride. But it is not only that competition that stands out. It’s your ambition to make the most out of life, your passion for your family and everything you have done for this community for so many years that makes me so proud to say I am your son,” he said in an emotional tribute that prompted a warm hug from his dad and left barely a dry eye among the 100 plus crowd.

Mark’s daughter Ivy also received a special honour as she was selected by her dad to receive the medals and bars that are removed from his uniform to make way for the Gold Star. Both Mark and Maria were the recipients of several presentations throughout the night by representatives of various organisations associated with Fire and Emergency NZ. Also present for the occasion were Coromandel MP Scott Simpson and chairman of the Tairua/Pauanui Community Board and former chief fire officer for Tairua, Warwick Brooks.

Tairua’s chief fire officer, Chris New, highlighted Mark’s years of dedication and commitment. “Over that 25 years period, Mark’s attendance rate for trainings and musters is 91.3 per cent and for nine of those years it was 100 per cent. He tried to leave the brigade when he couldn’t make most of the muster training nights during the two years when he was working night shifts and he felt bad because of the value he places on being an active team member. But Warwick Brooks wouldn’t let him. In the end Mark decided that if he ever got into the backseat of the truck on a callout and someone turned around and said “who are you?”, that would be the time to leave. Thankfully no-one ever said those words.”

Mark had complied a few words of wisdom for both new recruits and colleagues which were shared by his Tairua fire brigade colleague and MC for the evening, Belinda Wehrle.

“Be keen, be willing to put the time and effort in and be committed,” was his advice for those entering the brigade, and to those currently wearing the uniform, “lead by example”.

In particular Mark recalled the 1996 Opoutere fire when he was part of a crew doing a 12 hour shift, running hoses up a hill that would be similar to Paku. More recently, the five and half hour shift spent attending the fire at the refuse station in Kopu, was especially challenging.

The gathering was reminded of the toll being a volunteer fire fighter can take on members both physically and mentally, as well as on their families and wife Maria and children Kade, Ivy and Stella were thanked for the sacrifices they had made in sharing Mark with the community. In his closing remarks, Mark said the past 25 years had been truly awesome, and while he’s be reluctant to commit to another 25, he reckoned he’d have another 10 or 15 in him yet!

Pictured: At the Gold Star presentation evening at Tairua community Hall are members of the wider Cory-Wright family (from left) - Letesha Radford, Kade, Stella, senior station officer Mark, Ivy and Maria Cory-Wright and Hannah Albert.

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