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Second retirement of John McLeod
Following his 80th birthday and days of celebrations, John McLeod has stepped down as the coordinator of discipline, the torchlight parade and the inspecting officers on the track at the State Urban Senior Champs.
It’s the latest in a long line of roles taken on during 63 years as a member of the now-integrated Boronia Fire Brigade. This commitment culminated in John being awarded the AFSM in 1990 as well as life membership of his brigade and CFA.
“It started with being dragged off the footy ground to fight a scrub fire,” says John, who joined the brigade as a firefighter and later became involved with the competition side.
The major fires John recalls are not what you might expect.
“It’s the 3am fires that get the adrenaline going,” he says. “You’re woken up into an emergency and some poor bugger’s getting burnt out. We had to arrange accommodation. Would it be needed? A fatality in a house fire and I’m the officer in charge; that’s what comes back to me.”
John has seen huge advances in personal protective equipment, trucks and technology. Boronia was one of the first brigades to receive pagers, bought for them by the City of Knox. He also recalls holding on the back of the old Austin and getting his fingers jammed under the lid of the hose box every time it went over a bump. Clips were later fitted to the lid to keep it shut.
As with many passionate volunteers, John ‘retired’ into CFA with his commitment ramping up after leaving his career as a safety officer at the City of Monash when he was 61 years of age.
There were years when he and wife Trish, a passionate volunteer in the field of callisthenics “saw each other at the front door as I was going out and she was coming in,” recalls John.
John has held the champs’ role since 2000 when he was also the longest-serving person on the executive and four-time president of the Victorian Urban Fire Brigades Association.
“With CFA, it’s all about the friendships you make,” says John, “and through the association you make so many more.”
A particular point of pride are his long-running friendships with fire service members in Western Australia who he hosted when they attended local champs. He also used to take annual leave to attend the champs in NSW when they lasted for a week, and has subsequently been made an honorary member in that state; a great sign of respect from an interstate fire service.
His role in the champs is being enthusiastically picked up by Patterson River Fire Brigade’s Chair Peter Davis.
John is now getting involved in Boronia’s 75th anniversary celebrations to be held this year, and he certainly plans to keep going to the champs.
Happy second retirement, John.
Thanks to Joan Watts for photos.