Last Monday, the community said farewell to much-loved and respected figure Keith Norton.
A funeral service was held at St Joseph’s church in Barooga, where the Victorian SES life member was laid to rest by family, friends and former colleagues who filled the church to pay their respects.
SES members formed a guard on honour as Mr Norton’s coffin made its way out of the church.
Mr Norton passed away at the age of 81 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.
After joining the SES in 1994, he went on to become just the fifth person to receive a Victorian SES life membership and was also awarded a NSW long service medal.
He also had a stint as vice-president of the Tocumwal Rescue Squad.
Cobram SES volunteer Darren Hawke, who worked with Keith for many years, said his legacy within the SES, Tocumwal Rescue Squad and NSW Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) would live on for many years to come.
‘‘He was the stabiliser, the glue that kept us all together,’’ Mr Hawke said.
‘‘He helped keep us safe. He constantly kept us thinking about possible scenarios in emergency situations and how we would combat them and he always kept us on track.’’
Mr Hawke said Mr Norton’s calming nature helped SES and VRA members cope with the most challenging facets of the job.
‘‘As emergency response workers, we see some horrific things, things that you don’t forget and things that can keep you up at night, but Keith always went out of his way to make sure we were doing okay,’’ he said.
‘‘He always viewed things holistically.’’
Mr Hawke said Mr Norton’s strong personal qualities always shone through.
‘‘He was old school, he was courteous, he was respectful, he was a good listener, but most of all, an honourable gentleman always supported by a cheeky smile that allowed him to get away with almost anything and he used it to his advantage,’’ Mr Hawke said.
‘‘He showed us what right looked like.’’
Cobram SES deputy controller Luke Herezo said his mentor would always go ‘‘above and beyond his normal duties to help others’’.
‘‘For me, Keith was more than just a fellow volunteer. He was a mate and a true lifelong friend who I will never forget,’’ he said.