Max Gray, who worked as both a career and volunteer firefighter during his 55-year service to CFA, died on 9 October 2018.
Eulogy for Wodonga West Fire Brigade member Max Gray written by Captain Greg Porter.
Max Gray was born in Kyneton, Victoria. His father, Bunty Gray was RO at Ararat Fire Brigade. Moving the family from Kyneton to Ararat, Max and his brother David joined Ararat brigade as volunteers in 1955. Max and David were strong running team members. Max soon became the Apps officer at Ararat, the same position he held at Wodonga West until this year’s elections.
Max followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a career firefighter at CFA in 1963. The Gray name became prominent in the CFA ranks with Uncle Percy holding the Deputy Chief Officer role and his cousin Russell becoming a career firefighter.
Max was posted first to Geelong until 1972. During this period he was exposed to the destruction force of the Lara fires of 1969. In 1972, Max travelled to Traralgon as Officer in Charge. He stayed in Traralgon until 1976 and then took a posting as 1st Station Officer in Wodonga, and in 1981 he transferred to Bendigo.
In 1987 the family returned to Traralgon for a second time, on this occasion as OIC. By 1990 Max (being the hands-on type) was tiring of the administration roles (commenting that he joined to fight fires not to use a computer) and retirement at the age of 54 seemed the right thing to do. From here on, the family home became Oakmont Circuit, West Wodonga.
Retirement didn’t last long as Max couldn’t get firefighting out of his system, and he signed up as a volunteer member of Wodonga West Fire Brigade in 1998. As Wodonga grew, so did Max’s involvement in the brigade, passing on his immense knowledge ranging from use of pumpers, to urban structure fire strategies. Max spent many years and multiple terms as an officer within the brigade, excelling in procuring equipment.
In 2006 Max was presented with the National Medal. In 2007, he was awarded Wodonga West Fire Brigade’s prestigious award, Member of the Year (after his passing, renamed the Max Gray Memorial Award - recognising the firefighter of the year). In December 2017 Max was awarded CFA Life Membership. Upon his passing, Max was eligible to receive his 55-year service award, which was presented to his wife, Margaret by DCO Garry Cook in October 2018.
Max Gray was a very well-respected member of the Wodonga West Fire Brigade in which he passed on his wisdom, skill set and overall sense of humour to all members and the wider community. Max took his last journey on a routine callout just days before his passing on 9 October 2018.
Max was also involved in dancing circles with the Yackandandah Dancing Group and he taught dance around the local area. Max’s also offered his assistance with the Men’s Shed organisation.
Max was held in such high regard throughout the CFA community that he was awarded a full CFA funeral service, which included the coffin travelling from service to graveside on the back of a historic Dodge fire engine, guard of honour by brigade members and CFA officers including DCO Garry Cook, OM Paul King (coffin bearer) and OM Adrian Gutsche. The cortege passed the Wodonga Urban Station where members stood to attention and rang the large fire bell before joining in the procession to Wodonga Cemetery.
Local media including Prime 7 News and The Border Mail newspaper covering Max’s journey. During the proceedings, Wodonga West Captain Greg Porter read the Fireman’s Ritual, and evergreens were placed on the coffin led by DCO Garry Cook.
Max is survived by his wife Margaret, sons Mark and Peter and daughter Jenny.
Max Gray: one of nature’s true champions.