Ballina farewells "legendary" fire captain Hank Hankinson

KEVIN Hankinson will live on as the stories of his "legendary" deeds are recounted in the Ballina Fire Station.

Those were the words of zone commander of Fire and Rescue NSW, Superintendent Gary McKinnon, who spoke at Mr Hankinson's funeral yesterday.

Mr Hankinson - whose nickname was Hank - was in the Ballina Fire Brigade for 43 years and four days, and served as captain from 1982 until his retirement in 1999.

The Ballina-born man died on September 18, aged 81. His funeral was held at St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Ballina. Members of the Ballina Fire Brigade acted as pall-bearers and formed a guard of honour outside the church.

The siren at the Ballina Fire Station, which is normally only used for emergencies and on Anzac Day, was sounded as a fire truck led the hearse from the church to the East Ballina cemetery where Mr Hankinson was laid to rest.

"He will be missed by the firefighters of Ballina. He will live on forever," Supt McKinnon said.

He said Ballina firies who served with Mr Hankinson described him as a "hands-on" leader.

"He would climb to the top of the ladder first, and personally take over the hose," he said.

He told how Mr Hankinson hung a ladder over the side of the old North Creek bridge and climbed down it to fight one of several fires at the wooden structure.

Mr Hankinson served his motor mechanic's apprenticeship with the local Holden dealer.

Friend Dennis Desmond said Hank, outside of his firefighting role, enjoyed music and dancing - he met his wife Kathleen at an Alstonville dance - and was a "devoted family man".

Mr Hankinson, who worked for many years with Ballina council, lived in the fire station house while he was brigade captain.

Hank suffered dementia in later years, and mourners were asked to make a donation to dementia research in lieu of flowers. Mr Hankinson is survived by Kathleen and their children Lenore, Bruce and Ellena.

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