After Covid-19 forced the postponement of the celebration twice, Te Awamutu Fire Brigade were finally able to hold a ceremony to present Murry Gillard with his Life Member gift last Saturday.
Rob Peters, on behalf of brigade life members, presented Murry with a timber engraving of a helmet with all gold star holders' names on the back.
Murry joined Te Awamutu Fire Brigade as a volunteer firefighter on January 20, 1970 - and celebrated 50 years' service in January. He was also awarded a medal for that on Saturday.
Murry's family arrived on the brigade's 1934 Fordson V8 appliance to a guard of honour by uniformed members and gold star holders.
More than 160 people attended, including about 20 life members.
Murry had previously said he joined the brigade to serve his community but there was also the benefit of being part of an organisation that was like an extended family - plus it was "very social".
He served under the Fire Board, NZ Fire Service and now Fire and Emergency NZ and said he joined as his neighbour was a member, but he had to wait until his neighbour retired to inherit his uniform.
The official party was made up of Glenn Williams CFO of Te Puke VFB and Immediate past president of the United Fire Brigades Association; Daryl Trim Waikato area commander representing the fire region and the board of Fenz; John Walker CFO of Coromandel VFB and president of the Auckland Provincial Fire Brigades Association; Lesina Walden of Ngongotaha VFB and president of the Auckland Provincial Fire Brigades Gold Star Association; Member of Parliament for Taranaki-King Country Barbara Kuriger and Waipā District mayor Jim Mylchreest.
Glenn acknowledged that Murry's attendance at trainings and musters averaged 97 per cent in the 50 years. In recent years it had been 100 per cent.
Apart from being a volunteer firefighter, he is probably best known for his many years in Hallensteins when the franchise operated in Te Awamutu.
It was recalled that Murry would run to the fire station from the main street when the alarm sounded, beating other members who were closer.
Chief fire officer Ian Campbell summarised the roles Murry had played in the brigade, being deputy chief fire officer for more than 20 years under three chiefs and his substantial Waterway Competition history including two national titles.
Murry then acknowledged his family, employers and his Hallensteins' employees who occasionally were left to shut the shop when he went to a call and didn't return.
He thanked his wife Joy and noted that she knew what she was marrying into.
"The lights used to be left on for me when I got home but they aren't anymore."
The Te Awamutu Fire Brigade did around 80 calls a year when Murry joined, now it does more than 350.
Murry jokingly said that Joy knew the brigade was priority one, priority two was the kids and she was three, but has been promoted to two as their three daughters have moved out.
For 10 years he had lived at the station and when he moved out, it was to their current home just 150m away.
After half a century, attending an estimated 10,000 plus callouts, Murry doesn't plan on hanging up his helmet just yet.