By RODERICK SHAW
After 36 years of active service, Blacktown ambulance officer Graham Symes hung up his hat for the last time on Friday.
"It's been very rewarding," Mr Symes said.
"I've always been interested in community service and I joined because I wanted to save lives."
At 63, Mr Symes is moving from Glenwood to the Hunter Valley, and although officially retired, he will maintain some ties with Blacktown.
He has run the traffic offenders program in the Blacktown region for 13 years and is keen to continue this work. The program teaches road safety to people facing court over traffic offences.
"I've put more than 6000 people through that program," Mr Symes said. "When young people, aged 16 to 25, first come to me they say they're only doing it because they have to.
"When they finish up, they come to me and think me, saying they have a better understanding of what they've done," he said.
Mr Symes said he had a gift for communicating with young people.
This has been valuable, particularly when he has conducted traffic safety courses for high school students.
Some years ago, health concerns ended Mr Symes days of attending accidents. At first, he missed working at street level, despite the tragedy he has seen.
"I attended the Granville train disaster [of 1978] and I've seen multiple car collisions," Mr Symes said.
"Young children have died in my arms."
"When you have a young family yourself, it flashes through your mind that it could have been one of your own," he says. But Mr Symes said he learned to accept that he could not save everyone.
He also said he accepted that work in community education was the best service he could now offer.
"I believe I've done the best I could and I'm satisfied with what I have done," he said.