It is a well-known tradition for those working in the Sydney Control Centre to “ring the bell” to signify the successful completion of their training in Call Taking or Dispatch. The man behind this sacred tradition, Gary Hendry, retired this month after more than four decades of service.

Gary Hendry retirement

A much-loved member of the Sydney Control Centre team, Gary joined NSW Ambulance in April 1978. He worked as a paramedic in numerous ambulance stations across the greater Sydney area before taking up post as a Dispatcher in the Sydney Control Centre.

“I have done and seen some amazing things and been to some amazing places as a paramedic,” Gary said.

“I have also seen some things that I would rather have not seen. I have been with people when they have left this world and been the first person that little people have met when they come into the world.”

After 42 years, 9 months and 23 days of dedicated service to his community, Gary said it felt like the right time to retire.

“Like many of us, I have missed many family functions due to the commitment of shift work and it is now time for me to give back to my family. The time is right,” Gary said.

Gary said that his greatest achievements are the friendships he’s made along the way, including with people who have already retired.

“I am proud to report that they remain good friends,” Gary said. “But there are many friendships I have with people I currently work with both on the road as well as in the Control Room and these are the friendships that I hope will continue in some form or another into the future. These are the friendships that are going to be the hardest to walk away from.”

Looking back on his career, Gary said he is indebted to those who have given him their support and guidance.

“I owe a great deal to the many people who have helped me grow along the way, guided me, educated me, mentored me, gave me a kick in the behind when I deserved it, trusted me, confided in me and became my long-time friends,” he said.

“I thank my parents for their wisdom and the ability to give advice without being critical. I also thank my wife for her support during some difficult times over the years as a paramedic, and for continuing to run a house with four kids as well as working herself during those times I have been away from the home front.”

During his final shift, Gary rang the bell for the last time and reflected on the all the good times of the last four decades.

“There have been many times when my sides have been aching from laughing so much with you all. I will always remember the team in the Control Room with a great deal of fondness and pride,” Gary said.

Gary’s departing statement was:

“Gary Hendry, back on station, cleaned up and right to go… Goodnight.”

This story appears in the January 2021 edition of NSW Ambulance's internal magazine, Sirens.