Colin Lawrie, QSM, JP, a long-time Levin fire service volunteer and dearly loved husband, father and grandfather, unexpectedly passed away at home last week, while checking up on game results for his beloved Tottenham Hotspur football club. He was 82.
Well-known in the Horowhenua district for his community and business involvement, Lawrie had touched a lot of lives, which was demonstrated by the turnout at the fire brigade funeral service and honour guard held at the Levin Fire Station on Friday afternoon.
Lawrie's son David explained that, due to level 2 Covid restrictions, the family had a private celebration planned for the Saturday, but wanted to give people the opportunity to pay their respects.
"To keep Dad busy until Saturday ... he went on a farewell tour [on Friday] to say goodbye to his friends and for his friends and colleagues to say goodbye to him", said David.
Lawrie's casket was draped with the NZ Fire and Emergency flag, placed on a fire brigade trailer hitched to a fire service vehicle and accompanied by a police escort.
He was carried to the Horowhenua Health Shuttle site first, where he had been a driver since the organisation's inception in 2008, continuing to take his turn at the wheel right up to the day he died.
Next stop was the Levin Cosmopolitan Club, where Lawrie was greeted by a number of patrons and friends who shared memories of his involvement with the club over the years.
A meet-up at the Levin Football club at Donnelly Park was the next stop for Lawrie, who qualified for a NZ refereeing badge in the 1980s and went on to referee more than 90 central league games.
He was also a life member of Horowhenua Junior Football and New Zealand Football, as well as an NZ match assessor, a role he had retired from only three years ago.
Lawrie's final destination was the Levin Fire Station for his last call to service, after more than 50 years of volunteering since he joined the Levin Fire Brigade in February of 1969.
According to Mitchell Brown, the Manawatu area commander/manager for Fire and Emergency, Lawrie had earned great mana during his years of service, not only in terms of his various roles in the Levin volunteer fire brigade but also in the hearts and minds of those he had served with.
In 2008 Lawrie became a justice of the peace and received the prestigious Queen's Service Medal for his contribution to the Horowhenua community and the then NZ Fire Service.
In 2015, Senior Staff Officer Lawrie was the first person in the Levin Volunteer Fire Brigade's history to receive a double gold star from the United Fire Brigades Association for his 50 years of voluntary work.
At the time, Lawrie said his fire service career began when he was 7 or 8 years old and living near Westport, in the South Island.
"A steam train set fire to the vegetation alongside the track which consequently set fire to the piles under the station. Being only small, my eldest brother got me to crawl underneath with a small pail of water to apply to the piles, which saved the railway station."
According to Lawrie's son, his dad was a humble man whose many volunteer roles were not done to be in the limelight, rather to support and give back to his community.
Brown during his eulogy also acknowledged the sacrifice Lawrie's family made to support their husband and father's passion, "[allowing] Colin to respond to the Levin and wider Horowhenua community, to provide someone in need with skilled and experienced assistance to ultimately make someone else's day better …"
Lawrie and his wife Jan were married in December 1964, with son David coming along in 1966, then daughter Myreen in 1969.
The family moved to Levin in 1968 to take over the financially struggling BP Service Station, rebranding it Weraroa Auto Services, and working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to get it up and running again.
After 12 years the business was sold and Lawrie worked as a mechanic for Hudson and Burnham for a number of years before moving on to Kimberley Hospital to work, firstly as a mechanic then later as a psychopaedic assistant until he retired.
Speaking in 2015, Lawrie said that shortly after arriving in town former chief fire officer Trass encouraged him to volunteer for the Levin Fire Service.
"He said to me, 'next week you're a fireman' and turned up two days later with all my gear, and said 'see you Tuesday'," Lawrie said.
Lawrie was involved in weekly training sessions at the Levin Fire Station from then on, right up until the night before he died.
Colin James LAWRIE, QSM, JP
May 28, 1939 – September 14, 2021