In the midst of the fires that so devastated parts of the Mountains on October 17, St Thomas Aquinas principal Serge Rosato led his 550 primary school students on a 2.5 kilometre walk through flying embers, heavy smoke and burning trees.
Despite the fact that he had just learnt his own house had been lost, Mr Rosato kept calm as the pupils reached the safety of Winmalee shops.
There he stayed well into the night until all the students had been collected.
For acting “above and beyond the call of duty”, according to the mayor, Mark Greenhill, Mr Rosato was named the Blue Mountains local citizen of the year for 2014.
At a ceremony at Lawson on Australia Day, Mr Rosato said he was “very humbled and honoured” and dedicated the award to the staff, students and families of St Thomas Aquinas.
“I also acknowledge with gratitude all those who had to fight the fire,” he said. “I am incredibly grateful to them and to the great kindness and compassion which has been extended to the families at our school, not only by the community but people all over Australia.
“I really dedicate it to this wonderful community that we are privileged to be part of and to work in.”
The young citizen of the year award was given to Claire Brown, who coaches and conducts the St Finbar Youth Band and also volunteers playing the piano and working with the children’s choir.
Miss Brown, 25, from Glenbrook, said she enjoyed nurturing and developing young musicians and was excited to be named the young citizen.
“It’s a huge privilege and a lit bit embarrassing too. It’s a wonderful thing and I am so proud of the work I do with the young people of my church and the community. It’s a privilege to be part of their lives and their growth,” she said.
The sports person of the year was ultra-marathon runner Brendan Davies from Woodford.
“I’m very honoured. It’s really something I am proud of,” he said.
“Living in the Blue Mountains is such a big part of my success as a sportsperson. If I didn’t have the beautiful locations to run through and train through I wouldn’t have the success that I’ve had. I almost feel that I have an advantage because the training grounds I have are so suited for my sport,” he said.
Later Clr Greenhill and Australia Day ambassador Don Burke presented citizenship certificates to 41 people who pledged their allegiance to their adopted country. They came from a range of countries including Cambodia, Ecuador, Hong Kong, India, Nepal, New Zealand, Thailand, the UK, USA and Venezuela.