Honour for much-missed officer

During a short ceremony yesterday, the family of late Senior Constable Stefan Witehira, of...
During a short ceremony yesterday, the family of late Senior Constable Stefan Witehira, of Palmerston, (from left) granddaughter Harlow (1), son-in-law Kamryn and daughter Madyson Brown, mother Elainee, son Breeshyn (18), wife Mieke, daughter-in-law Paris and son Kelyn (absent is his oldest son, Shaydon (28), who lives in Australia with his wife and family) received a posthumous award for Snr Const Witehira's work for civil defence. Photo: Linda Robertson
Civil defence emergencies at times turned into ''sleepover parties'' at the Witehira house.

Stefan Witehira
Stefan Witehira
Mieke Witehira accepted a posthumous long-service award for her late husband - the well-respected former sole-charge Palmerston police officer, Senior Constable Stefan Witehira - at an intimate ceremony involving about 40 people at the Waihemo Service Centre in Palmerston yesterday.

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.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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