The passing of a legend – Oakville’s Peter Speet remembered as Hawkesbury mourns one of its finest
The Hawkesbury lost a great on Sunday. Long serving RFS Captain – and not long-retired from the brigade he loved – the legendary Peter Speet of Oakville, holder of the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM), passed away peacefully at home, his family beside him, aged 79, on Sunday morning.
Mr Speet with daughters Sally, Melanie, Katrina and Heidi at an RFS awards ceremony
Mr Speet was the ultimate Hawkesbury local boy, attending Oakville Public School and then Richmond High.
The Speet family were early settlers to the district and Speets Road in Oakville is named after them.
Mr Speet married Roslyn in 1967 and they celebrated 54 years together in February.
Peter continued to serve the community and farm his property at Oakville even after losing one leg in an accident (while helping someone whose car had broken down on the side of the road) in 1972.
The Speet paddock at Oakville has long been used to train new generations of RFS cadets in the practicalities of fire-fighting, but also the finer art of hose and reel events – Oakville being frequent champions of RFS field days for many years.
“I was tremendously saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Speet AFSM this morning, at home with his family,” said Hawkesbury councillor Nathan Zamprogno, a life long friend to Mr Speet and his family, this morning.
Cllr Zamprogno will this evening ask Hawkesbury Council to express its condolences and send a letter of gratitude to Mr Speet’s family for his outstanding community service.
Mr Speet with Cllr Nathan Zamprogno
“Peter, Roslyn and his family have been close friends to us for over 40 years,” said Cllr Zamprogno today in a heartfelt salute to his old family friend.
“When I joined Oakville Rural Fire Brigade in 1988, Peter was Senior Deputy Captain and was my leader and mentor,” said the councillor.
“He was, in every sense ‘Mr Oakville’, said Cllr Zamprogno.
“No one better exemplified the kind of broad, laconic, no-nonsense common sense that gets stuff done that only farmers can produce.
“My teens were spent on the back of the Studebaker, Oakville 1, rolling from burn-off to bushfire. By Peter's side I learned to admire his self-sacrifice, and about serving the community.”
Peter Speet was honoured at a November 2020 presentation including Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, Macquarie MP Susan Templeman, Minister David Elliott, and Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston, Cllr Zamprogno, at right
Mr Speet served as Senior Deputy Captain, Captain and Group Captain in the RFS, and first received the National Medal with clasp in 1990, followed by the National Fire Service Medal in 2005.
He was honoured again in November 2020 at a function to add a rare fourth clasp to his National Medal where Minister the Hon. David Elliott MP, Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons AFSM, Susan Templeman MP, and Robyn Preston MP were present.
“As a teen, I remember riding my bike to the Speet house and Peter and I would play chess across their kitchen table,” said Cllr Zampogno.
“He would talk about the importance of giving back, and of how it isn't the government that makes good communities; it's people, pulling together. The lesson stuck.
“Peter gave me my first paying job, weeding his strawberry fields at Oakville and at Dutch's farm up at Mountain Lagoon.
“But Peter also gave over 60 years of service to the Hawkesbury, and mentored many other young people, as Oakville's standing at the RFS championships year after year attests.
“That, and the presence of Oakville RFS as one of the largest and most active brigades in the district, if not the State.
“Peter rose to become Captain, Group Captain and recently Emeritus Captain of the Brigade.
“I joined dignitaries only last November to honour Peter in receiving an extraordinary 4th clasp to his National Medal at a special gathering with RFS and family.
“My warmest thoughts are with Roslyn, daughters Sally, Katrina, Melanie and Heidi, sister Di, and the large tribe of grandchildren and extended family.
“My hope is that Council, and the community at large will be afforded the opportunity to remember and honour Peter publicly.
“That this should happen during lockdown is so cruel. Vale, Peter.”
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