The life of fallen Horsley Park Brigade Rural Fire Service volunteer and hero, Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, was commemorated by loved ones, friends, and the wider community, at his Requiem Mass at Our Lady of Victories Horsley Park, Sydney, on Tuesday 7 January.
Andrew, along with fellow Horsley Park RFS volunteer Geoffrey Keaton, perished protecting Australians from some of the worst fires in the nation’s history near Buxton after a tree caused their truck to roll on 19 December.
Andrew’s father, Errol O’Dwyer, parishioner at St John the Baptist Catholic Church Bonnyrigg, spoke tenderly of his son’s life of virtue and sacrifice.
“Andrew was a wonderful sweet boy even as a baby,” he said.
“He played the role of protector for his little sister Amanda and took great pride in taking care of others.”
Immediate family attending included Andrew’s mother Margaret, sister Amanda, beloved wife Melissa, and cherished 19-month-old daughter Charlotte who was baptised 9 months ago at Bonnyrigg.
The church, filled to capacity with an estimated 800 mourners, included dignitaries such as Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Federal MP for McMahon Chris Bowen, NSW MP for Wollondilly Nathaniel Smith and NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, who delivered the eulogy. “Andrew was a genuine, decent guy who loved family, loved brigade, loved the outdoors and loved serving his community,” he said.
“There are no words that can adequately describe our sorrow, respect and regard.”
Medals of the highest order for the Rural Fire Service – the Commissioner’s Commendation for Extraordinary Service and the Commissioner’s Commendation for Bravery – were presented posthumously to Andrew. Andrew joined the Horsley Park Rural Fire service in 2002 in response to the fires that year and served as deputy captain in 2014-2018.
“The love he had for the fire brigade was as thick as the blood that ran through his veins,” said Andrew’s best friend and colleague, Horsley Park RFS Captain Darren Nation.
“Andrew was at the forefront of brigade social events and will be immensely missed … You were my best mate I love and you and I will miss you.”
In his homily, Mass celebrant Fr Dominic Dinh, Parish Priest at St John the Baptist in Bonnyrigg, spoke of the heroic death of Andrew as a reflection of the selfless life he lived.
“We all have to face death one day in our life so it’s wise to prepare for it and I believe Andrew had prepared for this by the way he lived his life,” he said.
“Faith tells us death is not the end. Andrew you are home with Jesus and you are home with God.”
By David Ryan. Reproduced with permission from The Catholic Weekly, the news publication of the Archdiocese of Sydney.