THIS is the story of Blinky Bill, his family and his brigade too.
Our lives are all a little emptier with the sudden passing of Bill Lenthall.
To his family and friends, he was known by many names - Poppy, Popsicle, Capt. Hero, Blinky Bill and more.
To Fire and Rescue NSW he was 371007 Captain Bill Lenthall AFSM.
Born in Traralgon, country Victoria, weighing a whopping 12 pounds, Bill was the first child of Arthur and Joy Lenthall.
Growing up he was a larrikin, getting up to mischief on a regular basis, such as being chased by the police and being evicted from a milk bar for wearing fluorescent socks.
He had a flare for all things mechanical - working for a farm machinery company when he finished school, before marrying the love of his life Marie in 1964, starting a family - three boys, Daryl, Brendan and Tony - and moving to Macksville, where he took over the Bicycle Shop in River St.
“Mum and dad knew nothing about running a business,” Bill’s eldest son Daryl said. “Dad was told he would need to get a second job to make ends meet - but boy did he prove them wrong.”
Aside from repairing push bikes, Bill tinkered around with chainsaws and lawnmowers, which is how Lenthall’s Chainsaws and Cycles was born.
“For years dad serviced saws for the professional timber cutters and friends - he even modified one of Stihl’s larger chainsaws which was used by the timber cutters,” Daryl said.
“Sometime later, the model - with dad’s modifications - was flying out of the factory in Germany, and senior executives even acknowledged his work.”
Bill’s cheeky shenanigans continued throughout his life - including knocking off Stihl engraved cutlery from the factories cafeteria in Germany while on a study tour of the factory.
Although his business and family were his life, Bill was extremely community minded.
He was the first secretary of the Macksville Pre-school and a member of the Macksville Rotary Club for many years, working tirelessly for their fundraising and various other community projects, as well as holding the position of Club Secretary and later Club President.
The streets of Macksville blossomed in 1985 when he and Marie, together with friends Robyn and Milton Preston, built an arcade of shops in Wallace St.
Bill was also a very dedicated and passionate firefighter - a trait evident from his early days when he joined the Country Fire Authority in Victoria and all the way through his years at the Macksville Fire and Rescue Brigade.
“In 1977, dad was asked by the Captain Dale Brunsden, to join the Macksville Brigade,” Bill’s youngest son Tony said. “Dad joined the Macksville Station in 1978, he became Deputy Captain on January 1, 1985 and then Captain on November 30, 1989.”
Bill served over 37 years in Fire and Rescue NSW, over 26 years as Captain, and with the combined Fire and Rescue NSW and Victorian CFA service, served a grand total of over 51 years as a firefighter.
Bill was instrumental in establishing a second truck bay in Macksville to boost the brigade’s fleet to two engines.
“He was highly respected within the ranks of Fire and Rescue, and within other emergency and non-emergency agencies,” Tony said.
“Few people know this, but when you become a firefighter and get issued with a pager, it comes with ‘magical powers’.
“In his day to day life, Dad would have the aches and pains, and generally move around as a 74-year-old-man. Some days were even worse. But when that pager activated, Dad turned into a 21-year-old Olympic sprinter, who would be running down the driveway towards his car, as fast as any other member of the station.”
Though a proud firefighter, Bill was a family man first. His love for his wife and three sons was undeniable. He loved his three daughters-in-laws - Artelle, Jodie and Kim - adored his five grandchildren - Ben, Jackson, Sarah, Sam and Mikayla - cherished his red ute and treasured his beautiful labradoodle Elly.
“Dad was such a generous person,” Daryl said. “He always found time for anything family related … if you asked for his help – he would put whatever he was doing on the backburner and do it.
“He was a wonderful father who provided us with the values that make us who we are today and he was a wonderful husband to mum.”
Tony said everyone will miss “the many things that we took for granted”.
“Me personally, I’ll miss the stupid texts that Dad would send at 6am to see if I was out of bed, and most of the time I wasn’t.
“I’ll miss seeing the old red ute around town, knowing that he was either heading up to the station, or back home from the station. And I’ll miss the 2am phone calls with Dad saying, ‘we have a good job on, you’d better come to this one’, when the Macksville Brigade responded to a major incident.
“In the Fire Brigade there is a radio code called a ‘stop’. This signifies that the incident has concluded and the crew can return to the station.