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Snr Const Witehira, who was chairman of the East Otago High School board of trustees, died suddenly on December 6 at the school's year 10 camp at Glenorchy last year.
Mrs Witehira said her husband, a 49-year-old father of four, was in his element in an emergency.
''Being sole charge wasn't just a 'sole' job,'' she said.
''It requires a lot of support from the community and the services that work within the community, but it does require a huge amount of support from the family. And that's what we were - we were just the back-up.
''We weren't overly involved in civil defence, but we often had a lot of people on days like when the water was rising and there were people being evacuated from their homes ... he would bring them home. We had big sleepover parties on those nights.''
As well as members of the community, representatives from New Zealand Police, St John, Fire Emergency New Zealand and the Waitaki District Council came to support Snr Const Witehira's family yesterday.
Former Waitaki mayor Alex Familton said the people of Palmerston ''all knew Stefan'' and knew him to be one of the most dedicated to the community.
''He worked in all manner of ways to make this a better place, and he succeeded,'' he said.