Surrey is saying goodbye to a noble soul.
Bill McNamara, a retired assistant chief of the Surrey fire department and 2010 recipient of the Surrey Good Citizen Award, died on April 16 from complications from a heart injury, Surrey Fire Fighters Association IAFF Local 1271 shared this week.
“Bill’s reach goes far beyond the fire service as he was an incredible community advocate on so many levels,” its Facebook post reads.
McNamara, 77, was a man of towering achievements in this city and beyond. He was hired as a Surrey firefighter in 1971 and retired in 1999.
“He’d won many awards for senior competitions for running, etcetera,” Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis told the Now-Leader. “He was an inspiration in terms of fitness, and his commitment, and involvement in the various aspects of the community. Like it was just endless, right.”
No hyperbole there.
Judy Villeneuve, who was acting Surrey mayor at the time, presented the Surrey Good Citizen Award to McNamara at the city’s volunteer recognition banquet May 5. She noted he was active in the Surrey Lions Club, the Centre for Child Development, a founding member of the Friends of Surrey Museum and Archives Society, co-chaired the Surrey Seniors Games in 2001 and worked on the B.C. World Police and Fire Games bid committee, Surrey’s Tourism Advisory Committee and the City Centre Spirit Party Committee.
In the 2009 World Police and Fire Games, he won two gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
“Bill is known as an honourable, helpful, enthusiastic team player who is always looking for ways to give back to the community,” Villeneuve said at the presentation.
He also served as president of the Surrey Firefighters Association, preceding his son and fellow Surrey firefighter Mike McNamara in that role.
McNamara received an honourary degree from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in 2016 dedicated to those who have spent their lives either saving people or inspiring them.
Marlyn Graziano, vice-president of KPU external affairs, was one of 110 to post a tribute to McNamara on the SFFA’s Facebook page.
“Bill was a kind and gentle soul whose generosity and service leadership were exemplary,” she wrote. “He was a wonderful friend and we will miss him terribly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Irene Schell said he was a “true community champion,” and Cheryl Pither White said his passing marks “a sad day for Surrey. Bill was one of a kind and his bright spirit will be missed.”
Retired Surrey firefighter Bill McNamara takes on new job in heaven. The Cloverdale business community mourns the loss of an amazing citizen who made an amazing mark in this city. @rclcloverdale @CityofSurrey @pulse1077 @CloverdaleBC1 @CloverdaleCOC @CloverdaleRodeo
— Paul Orazietti (@Paradeguy) April 17, 2019
McNamara was inducted into the World Police and Fire Games Hall of Fame in 2015 for his 30 years of competition in the track and field events. He attended the first WPFG’s in San Jose, California in 1985 and and won medals every time the games were held, making for a total medal count of 51.
He also served as president of the 2012 B.C. Summer Games organizing committee, when Surrey hosted more than 2,500 athletes and 800 coaches and officials.
McNamara competed in the B.C. Senior Games in Richmond in 2009, winning three medals in the men’s 65-69 age class including gold for the 400-metre run. He was also involved in the North Surrey Lions Club.
“It’s so tragic, isn’t it,” Surrey Battalion Chief Reo Jerome said of McNamara’s passing. “He was such a good guy, man. Bill was really nice. Just volunteered his time, always had a smile on his face, he was a good guy.”