Volunteer firefighter and Geraldton-Greenough SES member Ron Winstone leaves legacy of bravery and generosity

Jessica MoroneyGeraldton Guardian
Geraldton-Greenough SES life member Ron Winstone has died aged 79.
Camera IconGeraldton-Greenough SES life member Ron Winstone has died aged 79. Credit: Supplied

The community is poorer for the loss of Ronald Leslie Winstone, a dedicated volunteer firefighter, who died at Nazareth House Geraldton on December 18 at the age of 79. He served the community for 50 years.

Some would call him a historian, after writing the book Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t: Water On, Water Off, chronicling the history of Geraldton Volunteer Fire and Rescue since its foundation in 1880.

Others consider him a family man — husband to his wife Wendy for almost 60 years, and sharing five children who have now grown up and had children of their own.

But most would say he was a community-driven volunteer through-and-through, after serving more than half a century in emergency service roles in Geraldton, Toodyay and Lake Grace.

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Mr Winstone devoted most of his life serving his community and fearlessly rushing into danger to protect others. He leaves a legacy as a hero who was committed to keeping others safe.

Family, friends and those who had the privilege of working with Mr Winstone through the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, farewelled the selfless man who helped pave the way for them.

Ron Winstone (left) with Geraldton-Greenough SES volunteers.
Camera IconRon Winstone (left) with Geraldton-Greenough SES volunteers. Credit: Supplied

Mr Winstone was born in December 1943 and grew up in Kurrawang, a railway siding between Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie. He left school in 1958 to work as a telegraph messenger for the Postmaster-General’s Department before marrying his wife, Wendy, in Geraldton in 1966.

In an obituary published to The West Australian, Mrs Winstone said they were together for 57 years of marriage.

“Loving husband of Wendy, loving father of Anne, Haydn, Vicki and Sean. Father-in-law of Callum, grandfather of Peter, Lyndall and Georgie, great grand Poppy of Samuel, Aurora and Robert,” the death notice said.

“We will always love you and you will always be in our hearts. Rest in Peace.”

Mr Winstone began his journey as an emergency services volunteer when he joined both the Toodyay Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS) and Toodyay Central Bush Fire Brigade (BFB) in February 1973, becoming the captain of VFRS between 1990-1995.

It was in 1996 when Mr Winstone made the move to Geraldton and was welcomed to Geraldton VFRS in June, acting as an integral member of the community ever since.

He did a short stint at Lake Grace VFRS between August 1998 and July 2000 before he returned and became captain of Geraldton VFRS between 2012 and 2014.

Ron Winstone, left, and Beth and Russell Hayes, as part of the Geraldton incident control team volunteers.
Camera IconRon Winstone, left, and Beth and Russell Hayes, as part of the Geraldton incident control team volunteers. Credit: Peter Sweeney/Geraldton Guardian

Mr Winstone organised and walked the Firey’s Charity Walk from Geraldton to Perth in 2014. The enduring journey raised more than $9000 for the Volunteer Emergency Services Legacy and Princess Margaret Hospital.

In June 2015 he joined Geraldton-Greenough State Emergency Service (SES), serving as team leader between March 2017 and August 2019.

Mr Winstone attended some of the region’s most significant incidents including severe tropical cyclone Seroja, the Wooroloo and Red Gully fires and the search for young Cleo Smith near Carnarvon.

Mr Winstone earned his life membership at Toodyay VFRS in 1994, Geraldton VFRS in 2013 and received a considerable sum of medals in recognition of his service, including a 50-year VFRS medal, 20-year BFB medal, a five-year medal for service with Geraldton-Greenough SES and a third clasp to the National Medal for 45 years of service.

In his book, Mr Winstone said his late grandfather, James (Jimmy) Winstone, was a permanent fireman stationed at Fremantle at the time of his retirement — no doubt a role model of his.

He said he found researching and writing the history of the Geraldton brigade “interesting, enlightening and enjoyable, although at times a burden”.

Ron Winstone and George Kurandy.
Camera IconRon Winstone and George Kurandy. Credit: Jon Solmundson/The Geraldton Guardian

Members of Geraldton-Greenough SES said they were saddened by the loss of Mr Winstone.

“Ron will be sorely missed. Our condolences to his family and all those who called him their friend,” the team said.

Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said Mr Winstone would be remembered for his exceptional commitment to keeping others safe.

“On behalf of DFES staff and volunteers, I extend my deepest sympathy to Ron’s family and friends,” he said.

Ron Winstone, Zoe Wilson, 11, and Captain Damian Wilson.
Camera IconRon Winstone, Zoe Wilson, 11, and Captain Damian Wilson. Credit: Francesca Mann/The Geraldton Guardian

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