Simon Plumb is a journalist for the Herald on Sunday

Firefighter's family salute 'great person, selfless hero'

The devastated family of fallen volunteer firefighter Anne Talijancich say her legacy in the Northland community will live forever.

In an emotional two-hour funeral service at Dargaville Baptist Church yesterday, Ms Talijancich's brother Sam broke down in tears as he paid tribute to "a very private and caring person" whose selfless life had left an important legacy.

That legacy, he said, would be repaid for the sake of Ms Talijancich's two young children, her partner Kevin and for the commitment his sister made to the community in seven years as a volunteer firefighter with the Te Kopuru brigade. Te Kopuru, with a population of just a few hundred, is 14km south of Dargaville.

In a touching gesture yesterday, Ms Talijancich, 43, was also posthumously made an honorary life member of the Te Kopuru Fire Brigade - with the medal presented to her grieving mother, Carol.

"She meant the world to me and she died tragically. This community has lost a great person, a selfless hero," Sam Talijancich said. "She will leave a legacy and will forever be in the heart of this community. Her children will always be looked after.

"No one can replace Anne, but those kids will have many mothers."

Ms Talijancich, her partner Kevin Rowland and their two children, aged 2 and 10, were all in their car when it clipped the end of a bridge on Pouto Rd last Saturday.

Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral in Dargaville yesterday. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral in Dargaville yesterday. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Ms Talijancich died at the scene. The children were taken to Auckland's Starship hospital. The 10-year-old was unable to attend yesterday's service because she was still recovering from her injuries.

Te Kopuru firefighters in two appliances who attended the crash scene were shocked to discover some had relatives in the car. Firefighters affected by the tragedy have been offered counselling by the brigade.

Ms Talijancich's cousin, Anne Chapman, acknowledged those shocking circumstances in thanking emergency crews for their effort that day. "We would also like to acknowledge each member of the fire brigade," she said.

"We as a family are humbled by, and grateful for, what you do every day and we offer our sympathy and thanks to you all in responding to this particular call-out last weekend."

Carried through a guard of honour at the church to Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World, Ms Talijancich's humble, wooden casket was adorned with notes of remembrance written on it by friends and family.

With a fleet of fire engines and ambulances parked out in front of the church, hundreds of well-wishers turned out. In fact, so busy was the main hall a special overflow room in another part of building was set up, with a live video link of the service from the adjoining room.

She will leave a legacy and will forever be in the heart of this community. Her children will always be looked after. No one can replace Anne, but those kids will have many mothers.
Sam Talijancich

Ms Talijancich's brother Michael thanked mourners and said the family were determined to give his sister's children everything they'd need.

"It's such a tragedy to see her go and it's overwhelming to see the support that we have here," he said.

"We love her kids very much and I think they're going to be pretty spoiled by this family in future."

He also turned to Ms Talijancich's partner, Kevin, with a special message. "Kevin, you will forever be part of this family."

Before a burial at Red Hill Cemetery in Te Kopuru, fire trucks lit up to send Ms Talijancich on her way from the church.

Ms Talijancich's friends and work colleagues have set up a Givealittle page which had raised almost $3000 from 43 donors by yesterday.

- NZ Herald

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