"WHEN you're sixty, it's all over, Red Rover.”
That wistful comment began the compulsory transition of Noosa Police Station officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Stephen McReight to the plainer but no doubt less stressful Mr McReight on Wednesday, as he celebrated both his 60th birthday - and his bowing out of the force following 40 years of service.
Police and other emergency service officers created a line of honour as he stepped out from the building he had worked in for 15 years following a small celebration at the station. He was presented with a letter from police minister Mark Ryan thanking him for his 40-year commitment.
"I've got mixed emotions; I'm touched by all the fanfare,” Mr McReight said as he left.
"I couldn't have worked with a better bunch of people; they put up with my Murgon stories, lack of computer skills, no mobile phone, and more.”
The 'Murgon stories' referred to the Toowoomba-born officer's country Queensland posting at that town, along with the many others including Cherbourg, Dalby, Taroom, Wandoan and Warwick as well as a stint at Landsborough.
"I was going to be going back [to Cherbourg] but illness changed that, so we bought a house on the hill here.”
Noosa was a different kettle of fish to the state's south-west.
"I now drink coffee. I never did before I came here,” Mr McReight said with a wry smile.
And the move suited his wife Maree, who was born at Black Mountain.
He said he was "glad in some ways, sad in other ways” about his departure after so long.
"I'm sad about the number of fatal accidents I've seen.
"I stopped counting past 50 in 1994, knowing 99% of them were preventable.
"But the best of it is the generosity of the public when things go pear-shaped, also the camaraderie among my colleagues, and all the things we do to help others.
"We're troubleshooters - we make things work.”
Mr McReight said he once had to disarm a man and give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in saving a young boy.
"Years later [out west], I saw a boy playing sport - it was him.
"His mother came over, pointed to me and told him 'you owe him your life'.”
Mr McReight won't be looking for things to do in retirement.
He's a lifesaver with Noosa SLSC and involved with the Dolphins Rugby Club.
"The surf club guys talked about a few things they've got lined up,” he said ominously.
He's also looking forward to spending more time with his offspring, although his eldest son works at a mine, his daughter is in Bli Bli, while his youngest son is a drover in Moree.
As for Maree McReight, who incidentally met Stephen "when I went into Dalby Station to get my learner's”, she's happy about the new phase their 33-year marriage is taking.
"We will drive into the sunset on a trip to northern NSW,” she said
"We'll just get in the car and go.”
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