FAMILY MAN: Cheryl, Nick, Lex and Hans Battaerd.
FAMILY MAN: Cheryl, Nick, Lex and Hans Battaerd. Couresty Cheryl Battaerd

Vale Hans Battaerd, his legacy will never fade

FATHER, husband, brother, uncle, cyclist, fire-fighter, athlete, colleague and friend.

Hans Nico Battaerd, 59, was a man of many facets and like a diamond, he sparkled in them all.

On November 23, Mr Battaerd was killed instantly when struck from behind by a 4WD while cycling home from a training ride with the Ballina Masters Cycling Club.

He was heading to Tintenbar, back to the house he and his wife Cheryl bought early last year and which they had planned to enjoy their retirement.

A devoted family man, renown for his kindness and his generosity with friends and fellow competitors, he was also a decorated firefighter whose expertise and professional conduct was revered and respected.

Brimming with vitality, enthusiastic about whatever the day would bring, despite international success as a triathlete, Mr Battaerd remained humble about his achievements.

Born in Venezuela to a Dutch mother and South African father, he grew up in New Zealand the second oldest of four brothers.

A keen sportsman who excelled at everything from hockey to swimming, cycling became a great passion when his ankles would no longer allow him to continue his stellar career as a tri-athlete.

After he finished school in Auckland, Mr Battaerd travelled and met his wife-to-be in London.

They enjoyed an adventurous time cycling around France and upon their return to Australia, married and Mr Battaerd joined Fire & Rescue NSW.

It was an ideal career choice, combining his genuine love and concern for people, his wish to help the community and a physical role which was an outlet for his prodigious energy.

By the time he retired on a medical discharge, Mr Battaerd was a senior firefighter who had worked at Wollongong Communications, Sydney, Wollongong and Bulli Fire Stations, and received two commendations, one for his work on the 1997 Thredbo disaster.

Station officer Craig Weir, who worked with him at Bulli, said he was a leader and a hero.

"When you walked into a fire station where he worked, you noticed the difference,” he said.

"Everyone was happy, everyone was laughing, every day was different and every shift held a surprise.”

Mrs Battaerd said her husband was an exceptional person.

"Hans led a very full life, was so fit, and achieved so much,” she said.

"He represented his adopted country in both triathlon and cycling, winning many Australian championships in triathlon and a bronze medal at the world triathlon championships.”

Mrs Battaerd said their recent move to the hinterland meant her husband was in his element.

"He loved the land, enjoyed riding around in his tractor and planning for us to eventually be primary producers in our retirement,” he said.

"Bar the birth of our boys, we were the happiest we have ever been in our 34 years of marriage.”

His sons Nick, 31, and Lex, 29, spoke of a man who was not just a dad, but a great friend as well.

"He was my best mate,” Lex said. He and and his partner, Dee are now living on the property and helping to realise his parent's plans for the farm.

Speaking at his father's funeral, Nick said he would never be forgotten.

"They say you die twice, once when you stop breathing, and once when the legacy you left fades out,” Nick said.

"Looking out at this sea of faces, knowing the memorial taking place on Towradgi beach today, and hearing all the messages of support that we have received, I know that his legacy will never fade, and in that sense he may outlast us all.”

Mr Battaerd is survived by his wife Cheryl, sons Nick and Lex and brothers Pietr, Jan and Wim and their families.

Hans Nico Battaerd. 22.12.1956 - 23.11.2016

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