For 63 years, smooth-stepping firefighter Max Gray didn’t hesitate to help others, and in his final days, nothing was different.
Last Friday, the former Wodonga West Fire Brigade Lieutenant had a stroke while returning from a CFA call out. The 81-year-old died on three days later, on Tuesday.
Family-friend and former Wodonga West Fire Brigade captain Ross Coyle said Max’s death was a terrible shock.
But, he said, it was somewhat fitting that a man who dedicated so much of his life to CFA remained involved in his final days.
“In some ways it describes Max’s life, right to the end he was turning out, right to the end he was a CFA volunteer,” Mr Coyle said.
“The Wodonga West Fire Brigade, its professionalism, and what it is today is largely because of the work of Max Gray. It’s a huge loss.”
Mr Gray first joined the CFA as a volunteer in Ararat in 1955, before becoming a career fire fighter in 1963.
As an officer in charge he was stationed across the state in Geelong, Traralgon, Wodonga and Bendigo – before retiring and becoming a volunteer with Wodonga West Fire Brigade.
In January, Mr Gray’s long affiliation with CFA and dedication to the Wodonga brigade saw him named a life member.
“When Max joined we were just a little rural brigade,” Mr Coyle said.
“He joined at just exactly the right time, we needed development and structure to develop and work in urban environments and Max was able to bring that to us.
“He had so much time for people, especially those just becoming fire fighters – he was a much loved and just terrific guy who will be missed.”
Outside of his firefighting uniform, Mr Gray was a keen fisherman, father and dancer.
“He was heavily involved in dancing… it was the only thing that could keep him away from a fire brigade event – he will be sorely missed there as well I’m sure,” Mr Coyle said.
Mr Gray is survived by his wife and dance partner Margaret, with whom he had children Jen, Peter, Mark and Gary (dec).
The brigade will participate in a service for Mr Gray at Conway Funeral Home at 2pm on Friday.
Receive our daily newsletter straight to your inbox each morning from The Border Mail. Sign up here