Remembering Terry Potter

Terry Potter was born in 1944 at the Bush Nursing hospital in Upper Ferntree Gully (now the Angliss Hospital). The Potter family lived in Rose Street and later moved to Station Street. Terry went to school at St John’s Parish Primary School. From there he worked as a clerk in the postal service, completed secondary education at night school and rose to managerial level in the Post Office.

That brief description by no means sums up Terry’s life as many locals know. From his early years he was engaged in volunteering with community organisations, not only at St John’s where he was sacristan for many years, but also at the CFA. 

The present captain, Seamus Smith, in his address at the memorial service, expressed thanks for the opportunity to pass on the feelings and thoughts and reflections of the brigade in acknowledgment of who Terry was to them, and how much he meant to all of them.  ‘Terry served over 50 years to the Country Fire Authority, first joining the Upper Ferntree Gully Fire Brigade in 1960 as a fire fighter. He then transferred to Ferntree Gully in 1964 where he continued in his service holding many roles of office including, Secretary, Foreman, First Lieutenant, Captain and later as Treasurer’ … In 2010 Terry received the badge of recognition for 50 years service.

‘Terry, himself was very conscious of the need to make sure that those around him were recognised and rewarded for their achievements and exemplary service. He was always pleased to acknowledge the efforts of others, when those around him received their accolades. Terry was acutely aware of the changes to volunteer service and identified a need to provide early recognition of service, even before the CFA. He did this by developing the criteria and details for the Ferntree Gully Service Award, recognizing 5 years continued service to our brigade and local community. In later years the CFA adopted 5 year service certificates and brought service medals back from 12 years to 10 which are followed up in 5 year increments of service. 

‘Terry always had a way with words and would write letters on behalf of the brigade that would command a reply, always crossing his Ts and dotting his Is. He would collate facts, add detail and use his talented linguistic knack to write letters to force a response. This was a key attribute of Terry and a skill regularly put to good use for the brigade. This was the case no matter whether it was letters to ministers, the authority or for that matter anybody. When the recipients received their letter, they knew it meant business.

‘He would also often provide referee letters for members pertaining to their own good character and standing in support of his peers.  Terry would also assist members with confidential submissions for support in times of hardship with applications to the volunteer welfare fund and Terry with the support from a few other members would produce a monthly brigade newsletter that would circulate with all the scuttlebutt and news from around the brigade and community. 

‘It has been said to me that Terry, without doubt, was the best radio operator the group had. Back in the early days Ferntree Gully was the Knox Group Head Quarters and we had the base radio. The other brigades had sub-base radios and Knox Group had an exclusive radio channel to operate on. 

‘When the brigade responded and went out to a call, and if you had enough people around, someone was left behind as the base radio operator. This was an extremely important role that provided direct support and communications to the fire ground.  More often than not, it was Terry at the Gully and as the group headquarters were at Ferntree Gully, the brigade members always tried to get Terry to man the base radio. He was unflappable, never got stressed and with the constant reassuring tone in his voice, the crews on the other end of the radio knew everything would be done and recorded correctly, whether it be receiving word-back from the fire ground, turning out another Brigade for support or calling for the Police or Ambulance, or other support agency’…

Seamus concluded: ‘Terry Potter meant so much to so many people in so many different ways. He was always up for a conversation and you could be guaranteed there would always be a joke tucked in there somewhere. He was a kind and compassionate man who had real and sincere empathy for others; a man who genuinely enjoyed seeing others succeed. He was a true gentleman who gave a lot and never wanted anything in return.

‘In the early 2000s I was lucky enough to have my own special moment with Terry, where while we were chatting about an upcoming brigade event, Terry passed on some kind words and handed me his dress uniform cap finishing up by saying “you’re going to need this more than me now.” Something I will remember forever.  The Brigade is saddened by the passing of one of our finest, Rest In Peace Ex-Captain Terry Potter. We will really miss you.’ 

 The team at Gully News also wish to pay tribute to Terry’s role in distributing the newspaper for many years, not only house to house deliveries but also dropping off bundles to other walkers. At one stage he was dropping off nearly half the total print run. We still miss his cheerful, polite, helpfulness when he called in after each issue to report on delivery.

Terry Potter

by Sue Nicholls

Terry was always the face you saw when attending St Johns, quietly assisting at all three weekend Masses – four originally. Everyone knew him.

A man of few words, softly spoken, he would go about opening/shutting the church, setting up for the Mass, organising the computer, the altar servers, the collection, heating/airconditioning and all other requirements ensuring everything flowed smoothly. Following Mass he would be clearing up, replenishing newsletters, tidying the church and resetting to go again. On Saturday mornings Terry would open the church for the ladies on the flower roster and while this was being done he would be seen cleaning the toilet/bathroom block.

Every morning without fail about 7am he would do a security check of the parish grounds, checking all buildings/doors were secure and safe for morning arrivals.  This included the school buildings. It would be no surprise if this routine also occurred every evening. The heating/cooling would be on pre-arrival of the parish staff in the office as well.

Always thinking of everyone’s comfort but highly embarrassed if given a ‘thank you’ or worse still, a gift! A nod and a smile was his respectful reply.

Humble, respectful, gentle, quiet, patient, honest, a man of faith, who loved his family, his church and the CFA, are a few words to describe Terry Potter. Most importantly Terry was respected by all who knew him. Rest in Peace Terry.

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