More than 300 people gathered at the Havelock North Fire Station to farewell admired chief fire officer and veteran Alvan Wakeford.

The 75-year-old, known as 'Grumps' by his grandchildren, passed away last Monday, July 9.

He was officially farewelled by friends, family and fellow service officers on Saturday.

Wakeford was a well-known member of the community and was the longest standing member of the voluntary fire service in Havelock North, serving 50 years in the brigade.

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In 2010 he humbly accepted the Queen's Service Medal (QSM) - at that time he had 47 years of service.

Age 70 seemed the perfect time to retire, and he cited his age as 'two nice round numbers to finish on.'

"It's just something that's happened, I haven't really aimed for it. I'd say it's just come along and I'm grateful I've been able to stay well enough, fit enough, to do it,'' Wakeford said at the time.

It was a job he considered both his hobby and interest, and said it was satisfying being able to work for the community.

Looking back, he said being awarded a QSM in the Queen's Birthday Honours was both "unexpected and a great privilege".

300 people gathered to farewell former chief fire officer Alvan Wakeford in Havelock North on Saturday /Photo Duncan Brown
300 people gathered to farewell former chief fire officer Alvan Wakeford in Havelock North on Saturday /Photo Duncan Brown

He accepted the QSM on behalf of community servants, along with their wives, families, and their employers.

"They're the ones that make the brigade work,'' he humbly muttered.

He was talking about his wife Margaret, and such employers as the power board for whom he worked for 30 years.

"They're the ones that deserve the medals.''

Havelock North deputy chief fire officer Rod Triplow said Wakeford was unassuming and "put his head down and got things done''.

"He was our chief here for 20 years and the only one who had done 50 years in the brigade here in Havelock North."

"He was reasonably tough on everybody - but he was fair with everything."

Triplow recalled Wakeford's passion when it came to the fire service.

"When the station was being built here, he went all the way over to Opunake to look at their fire station, which is the same design as ours. He came back with a few ideas which we implemented for the build of our station in 1984."

"He enjoyed his time here and spent quite a lot of time on the regional operating committee for the 'region 3 area' which was helping to come up with ways of improving local brigades as well."

Triplow said Wakeford's passion lay with his family and the brigade, and his time was of great value to its members.

"There was a good crowd, 300-350, it was a really good day."

"A lot of the people here in the brigade here have spent a lot of time with him and got on well with him - he will be sadly missed."