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Bill Rackham received the Queen's Service Medal in 2014.

‘Humble’ Bill Rackham farewelled


Bill Rackham 1941-2023

William (Bill) Rackham was remembered as a “dedicated” Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer and “humble” family man.
Mr Rackham, who died on January 22 after a short illness, was remembered by his family and Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) for his fierce 56-year service to the Paeroa community.
His son Graeme, who served alongside his father in the mid-1980s, said there were many aspects to his father’s firefighting career.
“He was a man of integrity, he was very generous and was very proud of his team of fellow firefighters.
“Not only was he a dedicated firefighter, as a young man he was a keen rugby player [for Paeroa West], he was very committed to his family, he was a perfectionist cabinet maker,” he said.
“He will be overwhelmed with the love and support he receives from the community and his fellow firefighters. He would want to say thank you all very much for being with him and he would want to express his love and honour back to everybody else.”
Graeme said his father’s main highlights included the Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade centennial in 1995 and local and national waterway firefighting competitions.
“To be competitive, you’ve got to train four or five times a week, so it was not unusual for him to be out on the competition track with his brigade colleagues training as a competitor in the waterways competitions,” he said.

Son Bill Jnr, who also served with his father, said he was “very well respected” by the FENZ community but never sought recognition for his service.
“The fire and emergency work that he did was for the community,” he said.
“It was fire brigade work right across the board and that included things like putting in smoke alarms and helping with building inspections.”
Bill Jnr said he still had vivid memories of his father dropping everything at home to respond to callouts.
“We can remember Dad being in the fire brigade for most of our lives,” he said.
“Many times when we were together as a family, the siren would go during dinner times or in the evenings or whenever we were doing something and then Dad would head off.”
“I’m in awe of the commitment that volunteer firefighters including Dad put in towards their passion of helping the community.”

A vintage fire truck leads the procession.

Bill Rackham was born in Paeroa in 1941 and attended Paeroa Central School and Paeroa District High School, now Paeroa College, before departing his rugby career to join the Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1967.
He was appointed chief fire officer in 1991 and was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in 2014 for his service to his brigade and community.

FENZ members in the procession down the main street of Paeroa.

Paeroa Volunteer Fire Brigade senior station officer Paul Jackson said Bill’s passing “left a big hole” in the brigade.
“He’ll be remembered as a great chief, Bill’s biggest legacy is his commitment to the community doing smoke alarms, he’s done hundreds of smoke alarms around Paeroa,” he said.
“I first started in 1990, he was deputy chief then, he was always a good honest bloke, and he was a bit of a gentleman but when the times got tough he knew how to pull the boys in line.”
Bill, who had five grandchildren and two great grandchildren, died aged 81 at his Paeroa home. His service was held at Paeroa War Memorial Hall on February 1 after a procession down Paeroa’s main street led by a vintage fire truck.