Yanchep community farewells popular figure Andrew Otremba

Yanchep community farewells popular figure Andrew Otremba
Yanchep community farewells popular figure Andrew Otremba

ANDREW Otremba’s wife said he will be back behind the wheel of “heaven’s community bus” as the Yanchep community farewelled a popular volunteer.

The chapel at Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park filled with about 230 people for the funeral of Andrzej Pawel ‘Andrew’ Otremba yesterday.

Bethanie Beachside chaplain Kerryn Monger led the service as a “celebration of his life”, retelling memories of his life and influence in the community.

Born in Poland on February 6, 1954, Andrew grew up with three older sisters and was the clown in his family.

His wife Julie said she met Andrew when her family visited the European country in 1974.

“It was love at first sight; he told my dad he would marry me one day,” she said.

True to his word, the couple married in Poland on July 24, 1976 during her fourth visit and after sending each other letters while she was in Australia.

They travelled to Australia later that year, and it has remained home, with Andrew adjusting to the hotter climate and different lifestyle.

“At just 22, he found it a big shock to discover a life without rations,” Mrs Monger said.

They had three children – Paul in 1977, Monika in 1980 and Adam in 1984 – and Mrs Otremba said her husband always tried to give them the best he could, even in tough times.

In 1987 the family moved from Balga to Yanchep, where Mrs Otremba said Andrew found a “new lease on life” getting to know the neighbours and being involved in their three children’s sports.

He met Phil Renkin in 1989 and they became great friends, with Andrew joining the Yanchep Two Rocks Recreation Association and Yanchep Two Rocks Community Bus, which he drove for 21 years.

“Andrew’s greatest pleasure was driving the community bus,” she said.

“(He) will be driving heaven’s community bus while waiting for us.”

In 2004, Andrew received the Yanchep Two Rocks citizen of the year award for his work with community groups from the then-mayor of the City of Wanneroo, Jon Kelly.

The same year Andrew celebrated his 50th birthday with a big party.

“Andrew’s memory had started to falter slightly shortly after his 50th,” Mrs Monger said.

“He was always misplacing his wallet and glasses.

“It wasn’t until 2010 that he was diagnosed with early onset semantic fronto-temporal dementia.

“He had to give up driving his beloved community bus.”

Mrs Otremba said the news he had a form of brain disease was devastating.

“He was so young they didn’t diagnose it until later,” she said.

To keep himself occupied, he started walking around the neighbourhood collecting litter and cans and attended the Kinross Adult Day Centre.

By 2013, he could no longer walk or speak and moved into Bethanie Beachside’s nursing home, where he could receive fulltime care.

With family at his bedside, he died there about 7pm on February 5, the eve of his 63rd birthday.

“He was trapped in a body that didn’t work,” Mrs Otremba said.

“Thankfully he never lost the ability to recognise his family.”

In a final gesture of giving, Andrew donated his brain to medical research.

Mrs Otremba said her husband had a “smile that went for miles” and their three children and eight grandchildren all had a piece of him in their characters.

“Andrew’s spirit lives on in them,” she said.

Unable to attend the funeral organised by Simplicity Funerals, former Yanchep resident Terry Loftus sent a tribute, saying they had known each other for 20 years and Andrew had been passionate about the Yanchep Two Rocks community.

“Andrew was always keen to give his assistance to anyone who needed assistance,” he said.

“The shining star from Andrew’s passing is that he will be joining another great star from the region – Phil Renkin.”