Pelican Man dies in the line of duty
By MARY MANN
"IF PELICANS could cry, there would be wailing around the nation that could not be ignored."
These are the words of Marny Bonner, partner of the late Lance Ferris our Pelican Man who died at the weekend after suffering a stroke.
It means the pelicans have lost their best friend, but Lance has left behind a legacy of kindness, determination and compassion that will live in the hearts of locals for generations to come.
And it is a legacy Marny is determined to continue. "More than anything, I want to honour Lance's life by continuing his mission," Marny, Lance's partner, friend and colleague, said.
Mr Ferris collapsed from a stroke on Saturday morning at the Ballina headquarters of Australian Seabird Rescue, the organisation he founded some 15 years ago to defend the wellbeing of marine wildlife.
He was taken by ambulance to Lismore Base Hospital, but his condition deteriorated late on Saturday and he died in Marny's arms early on Sunday morning. He was 60 years old.
Lance is survived by his two adult children, Jason and Rochelle, Cassie the galah, Bonnie the golden retriever, and Benji the Scottie dog.
"All of his animals are devastated. They don't know what to do," Marny said.
Rochelle is flying back from Europe where she has been working, and his son Jason, who lives in Melbourne, has travelled to Ballina to help out the rescue volunteers.
"Seabird Rescue started out in our back yard with one bird when I was a kid, and I have%fed my fair share of turtles,"%Jason said.
"But for me, music is the centre of a lot of my fond memories of dad.
"We played guitar and sung together for years. Being on stage, singing, laughing and harmonising relating through music was the greatest thing."
Marny described Lance as an enigmatic but shy man who had a sense of humour and was a bit of a larrikin.
"He had an abiding kindness and gentleness for any creature, or human, who needed support," Marny said.
"He was down in Ballina rescuing a pelican one day and he saved a woman from drowning as well."
Marny shared another story about the time some school students approached Lance in Alstonville.
"The kids came up to him and said, 'you spoke to us in kindy and we haven't thrown a plastic bag away since'," she said.
"He was like a Pied Piper with kids, they all knew him as the Pelican Man."
However she said Lance's health had deteriorated in recent months.
"He was exhausted by his work. But Australian Seabird Rescue was his mission," she said.
"More than anything I want to honour his life by continuing his mission.
"People can help me do that. Something as simple as picking up a piece of rubbish so%a turtle doesn't think it is%dinner."