Life membership marks extraordinary service

A lighter moment with Mayor Jim Mylcheest during fire chief Don Gerrand’s citation for Steve Russell’s life membership award with the brigade.

Two stalwarts in the Cambridge Volunteer Fire Brigade – Win Steen and Steve Russell – have been awarded life membership by Chief Fire Officer Don Gerrand.

The prestigious honour was bestowed at a September 28 dinner for around 100, held at the fire station and attended by local firefighters, their families and invited guests, affiliated business associates and Waipa District Mayor and Mayoress, Jim and Robyn Mylchreest.

Gerrard first presented the life membership award to Steve Russell, who is leaving the service after 29 years. Russell told guests that he had never expected to stay as long as he did, but that he had so enjoyed his tenure with the brigade that he just kept going.

Gerrard recalled Russell’s entry: “He came in on his pushbike … we nearly ran him over. Then we had to get him out of the house next door so we could build the new station. Steve, we have appreciated your efforts. You have been a diligent little operator and a good man.”

Win Steen, who retired just months ago after chalking up 56 years with the brigade, was acknowledged by Gerrard as his longstanding “trusted and helpful deputy”.

“You are a man of few words, a man who is totally respected … Win, I thank you,” he said. “I hope you will enjoy a long and happy retirement. But if you can still hop in your car and come down to the station to do the books, you will be most welcome.”

Waipa District Mayor Jim Mylchreest pinning the life membership award to Win Steen’s jacket, with Cambridge Chief Fire Office Don Gerrand at the podium.

Steen said it was “an honour” to accept life membership. “Cambridge Fire Brigade is one of the top voluntary brigades in the country. We have had three QSM recipients, including Don Gerrand. We have an exceptional group of people here. Would I do it again? Yes, I would!”

Gerrard recognised the Steen family’s accumulated 127 years’ association with the Cambridge brigade – made up of Win’s 56 years, his brother Ken’s 31, and their father Tom’s 40.  His comment that such a record would be hard to top was headed off by a call from the floor suggesting the Gerrand family was well on its way.

“The Steen name is etched into the history of this fire brigade,” said Don Gerrard.

Winston Steen’s service drew high praise from Mayor Mylchreest, who said he recalled awarding him his 50-year gold star at one of the first ceremonies he presided over after being elected mayor in 2013.

“I remember thinking then that 50 years was phenomenal.  Now, at 56 years, it’s amazing.”

He said Cambridge was lucky to be home to so many talented people who won awards for their achievements and brought recognition to the town.

“But those who volunteer for the fire service and St John are among the few who do it purely for the good of the community.”

He thanked both men for their service and said he didn’t know how New Zealand could afford the service “if it weren’t for men like you”.

The men’s wives – Yvonne Steen and Michelle Russell – were acknowledged for their role in supporting their husbands with a presentation of flowers.

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