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Celebration of life of Peter Harry
Ian Hay, group officer of Mt Macedon Group, gave the following eulogy at the Wednesday 9 January funeral of Gisborne Second Lieutenant Peter Harry.
Leanne, Tegan and Alyssa, thank you for the privilege of being able to speak about Peter’s CFA service.
It was just after Ash Wednesday when two young lads arrived together at the fire station to join the brigade. Peter Harry and Peter Gossip officially joined CFA together on 21 March 1983 – and I know this is correct because I was the brigade secretary at the time.
Both the Peters became very active members of the brigade with Peter Harry showing a very good grasp of technology.
Sometime in the late 1990s, Peter and Leanne set up home in Sunbury and Peter transferred to the Sunbury brigade in early 1991. He stayed with Sunbury until February 1997 when he returned to Gisborne to live and transferred back to the Gisborne brigade.
Once Peter returned, he involved himself in all aspects of brigade life, and in July 2002 he took on the roles of both brigade and group communications officer. This was no easy task.
This is where Peter demonstrated how organised he was and how well he could organise others. Before we knew it, all the printed forms for strike teams, weather and availability were electronic and us old blokes had to catch up very quickly. I think that most of you would be able to guess who showed us how to connect with and use the new technologies – it was Peter with that impish grin that is so evident in the photos you will see of him today.
It was during his period as communications officer that Peter took control of the brigade website, created the brigade Facebook page and last year arranged the Twitter feed. His dedication to keeping the website up-to-date was incredible – he would ensure that the electronic face of the brigade was kept up-to-date even if he was away on a strike team.
Peter continued the work as brigade communications officer until July 2010 when he was elected as 3rd lieutenant of the Gisborne brigade. Once again, this new chapter in Peter’s service gave him the opportunity to show his ability in command and control.
In July 2012, the brigade promoted Peter to 2nd lieutenant, showing the level of confidence the brigade had in him. He then stood down as group communications officer after 10 years in the position.
Just listing Peter’s service does not really demonstrate how much he did for CFA and, ultimately, the community.
Peter loved the music scene and would often supply the music and lights for brigade dinners. I think his greatest impact on the annual dinners was when, together with Leanne as the Dirty Harry production team, he made video presentations that became a much-admired highlight. I still cannot hear the Vanessa Amorosi song used in the ‘Local Heroes’ presentation without seeing the images from that production.
When he was living in Sunbury we could always be sure to see Peter on Good Friday for the Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal. With his contacts, Peter would always get Gisborne mentioned on the televised appeal. However, he was not happy with just a mention so, with some gentle arm-twisting, he would arrange with his brother in-law for a live cross from the station.
The kids – and some adults – loved the chance to become a star for the short time of the cross, but no one was happier than Peter because he had once again raised the profile of the brigade and CFA in the community.
A lot of people did not realise the work Peter did with the local media to get the CFA message out to the community. The respect that Peter had cultivated with the local papers has become very evident in the past few days.
Peter was always endeavouring to use technology. When I was not able to attend last year’s brigade dinner, he even suggested that we use Skype to do a live cross for the presentation of the ‘Knotted hose’ award. After thinking it through we decided it would be safer if it was pre-recorded, and Peter produced a short video so the next uncoordinated member of the brigade could receive their award.
I know that Peter was very happy when he saw that recently I purchased a smart phone and he very quickly set it to receive tweets. He was still waiting, along with my other seven followers, for my first tweet. That just may be tonight.
After doing all this for the brigade and the community, Peter found time to manage brigade training, finding all sorts of ways to make it fun and competitive.
Peter would not have been such a big part of the brigade and group without the support of his family, and CFA would like to take this opportunity to thank Leanne and the girls for their generosity in allowing us to be part of Peter’s life.
I close with a quote from a Facebook post. It comes from a firefighter in Geelong and reads in part: ‘Rest peacefully – you have done your duty. We will take over from here.’
Watch the wonderful video produced by Peter Harry last year exploring the role families play in CFA's volunteer culture.