Billy Martin loved life, was full of adventure and had a heart of gold – albeit a fragile one.
The Albion Park father, who collapsed and died while on the job as a NSW State Emergency Service (SES) volunteer last week, has been remembered as a generous man who was always willing to help others.
It was Billy’s selfless nature that ultimately cost him his life.
The day was November 28 – one that began just like any other, but ended in heartbreak for his family.
The 39-year-old was serving the community – clearing a tree downed by severe weather at Flinders – when he suffered a cardiac arrest.
Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
Billy’s sudden passing sent shockwaves through the SES community across the state.
On Friday, hundreds – including members of the SES’s orange army, who formed a guard of honour – paid tribute to a man with a “cheeky and adventurous spirit”.
Billy’s funeral service heard how he had open heart surgery at the age of just 18 months.
But, as SES chaplain Steven Hall told those who gathered, the challenges of his heart “didn’t confine him and it didn’t define him”.
Billy lived life to the fullest. He loved being outdoors with wife, Jess, and nine-year-old daughter, Amarni – shredding mountains on their snowboards or cruising on the water in the family boat.
The snowboard placed at the bottom on Billy’s coffin told of his sense of adventure. So, too, did the motorbike nearby. His orange hard hat sat atop the casket.
In a heartbreaking address, delivered by a family friend, Amarni told how her dad had taught her to snowboard and always made her feel safe.
Billy called her “pumpkin” and “always did silly things” to make her happy when she felt sad.
“I’m going to think about you everyday, daddy,” she said. “I just want to take you everywhere in my heart, especially snowboarding and on the boat. I love you so much, big pumpkin, I’m going to miss you.”
Billy’s mum, Michelle, said her son touched the lives of many. “Billy, you had a heart of gold, as fragile as it was,” she said.
Being part of the SES was Billy’s lifelong dream, Michelle said. He had only been a member of the Shellharbour City Unit for just over 12 months, but had already made his presence felt.
“Billy was a kind, selfless, supportive man with a big cheesy smile or grin that was infectious; one that will forever be remembered by the members,” unit controller Terrie-Ann Hurt said.
As the service drew to a close, two Shellharbour SES volunteers handed Billy’s hard hat to young Amarni. She put it on her head, then held it tightly to her chest as she placed a single white rose on her dad’s coffin.
Billy is survived by Jess and Amarni. He also has two other children, Blake and Chloe, from a previous marriage.
A GoFundMe set up to help the family has raised more than $26,000 in eight days. To donate click here.