THE state’s longest-serving firefighter has put out the flames on his career after an unprecedented 60 years in the job.
Seventy-nine-year-old Gerry Cannon QFSM AFSM hung up his hat last month, but was formally farewelled by 150 friends, family, colleagues and Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Commissioner Jim Hamilton AFSM at Wests Leagues Club on Saturday night.
In an emotionally-charged farewell, Mr Cannon said it was the camaraderie and mateship that he would miss the most.
“It’s the fellowship with the rest of my crew,” Mr Cannon said.
“It’s been a great place to go and chat with all the blokes because I’ve been on my own for seven years, so it’s really great for me to go.”
But there’s little doubt his colleagues, who hold him in the highest regard, will miss him even more.
As a man privy to more changes in his field of work than anyone else across the state, Mr Cannon has been a wealth of knowledge since he signed up to the brigade in 1957.
He has been the beating heart of the station for many decades, having housed the first communications tower for their pagers in his Rawson Avenue backyard.
He has responded to more than 20,000 call-outs, covering everything from fatal crashes and serious accidents, to cajoling cats from drains and trees.
Fire & Rescue NSW Zone Commander, Superintendent Tom Cooper, said Saturday night’s celebration highlighted Mr Cannon’s unrivalled dedication to the job.
“He was a genuinely valued member," Superintendent Cooper said.
“I feel humbled having worked alongside side him for only a small part of his career. He was still as keen as the day he joined.”
Among the decorated guests were FRNSW Commissioner Jim Hamilton AFSM and FRNSW Director Regional Operations Rob McNeil AFSM.
Tamworth councillors Phil Betts and Russell Webb attended, and delivered a tribute on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister and New England MP Barnaby Joyce.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson read a letter from former NSW Premier Mike Baird congratulating Mr Cannon on his achievements.
Mr Cannon was awarded a fifth clasp on his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, as well as being named an honorary life member of FRNSW.
Mr Cannon plans to spend retirement travelling around Australia in his caravan.
“But I’m just waiting for it to cool down first,” he said, laughing.