Andrew Otremba’s powerful legacy

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Andrew Otremba of Yanchep was an active volunteer in the Yanchep and Two Rocks community for many years but his legacy has the potential to help many other people.

MOST people who have lived in Yanchep for any length of time benefited from knowing Andrew Otremba.

Now people who have never even heard of him could potentially benefit from his helping and giving nature.

Andrew drove the Yanchep community bus for 21 years taking people to the shops and on outings and he was president of the Yanchep Two Rocks Community Recreation Association for many years.

When he was diagnosed in 2010 with early onset dementia it was devastating for he and his family and especially his wife Julie.

At his funeral on Wednesday, February 15 Julie said she had lost her husband, love, companion, soul mate and best friend while Paul, Monika and Adam had lost a father and Brayden, Ajay ,Keyshia, Nate, Mia, Alyssa, Summer and Sierrah had lost a grandfather.

“But I have comfort in the knowledge that they all have a piece of Andrew a trait, a mannerism, a laugh, a look, a smile, a frown, quick wit, being handy, a love of sport and helping others, so I know that Andrew’s spirit lives on in them,’’ she said.

“Even in death Andrew is still helping people as he consented in 2008 to have his brain donated for research into the horrible deadly disease called dementia that is affecting so many younger people.

“His legacy to help so many.’’

Julie and Andrew first met in 1972 in Poland when she went to visit relatives.

Their meeting sparked an instant attraction and when Julie returned to Perth they wrote very short letters in very broken English or Polish to each other.

In July 1976 the couple married and in November after arranging a visa and passport for Andrew they left Poland to live in Perth.

As a child Andrew had spent a lot of time in and out of hospital with recurring rheumatic fever and by the time he was 10 he had spent more time in than out of hospital.

But once he recovered he indulged his love of sport and excelled at handball, gymnastics and football (soccer).

In 1970 he represented Poland in the youth league and continued to represent them on a number of occasions in football.

In 1974 Andrew finished a mechanical engineer’s diploma and went to work as a locksmith.

When the couple arrived in Perth Andrew was 22-years-old and had never been outside of eastern block countries before and was shocked to discover in Australia people were relatively free to speak and do as they wanted and did not have to have rations or coupons to get their daily sugar and butter allowance or to stand in line in the middle of the night for their meat ration.

Their eldest child Paul was born in 1977 the same year Andrew went to work at a factory where fencing materials were made.

In 1979 he injured his back in an accident and was then forced to go onto a disability allowance in 1983.

Some dark days followed as Andrew who as young man had been the family clown and good at getting a laugh from everyone who met him battled depression because he felt unable to provide for his family and pain due to his injury.

In 1985 Julie’s parents retired to Woodridge and the Otrembas and their children – Paul, Monika and Adam – spent every weekend helping out around the property.

In 1987 when Julie’s parents were both diagnosed with cancer the couple decided to move to Yanchep to be closer to them.

Soon after they moved to Yanchep Andrew took Paul to the beach and while there met another father who was setting up a soccer team.

He asked Andrew if he was interested in helping coach and this led to Andrew volunteering in the community.

In 1989 he met Phil Renkin who told him about the community bus trial and asked him if he had a B class licence and if he was willing to drive the bus occasionally.

This resulted in him driving the bus for 21 years and even training new volunteers for the role.

In 1996 he became the president of the Yanchep Two Rocks Community Recreation Association and apart from serving as the vice president in 1997 he held that role until December 2008.

During 2003 he was involved in a steering project to provide an aged care facility for Yanchep.

In 2004 he was the Yanchep Two Rocks Citizen of the Year.

He also received numerous certificates of appreciation from the Department of Communities, Community Services, Volunteering WA and the City of Wanneroo.

This was also the time when Andrew’s memory started to falter – at first not enough to cause alarm – but it gradually got worse although no one wanted to put a name to it because he had just turned 50.

In 2010 Andrew was shocked and devastated to be diagnosed with early onset semantic frontal temporal dementia and he had to give up driving his beloved community bus.

Andrew started to withdraw and his condition deteriorate but he continued to help Phil where he could.

He felt a massive loss when Phil died in 2011.

When he could no longer walk or speak it was a heartbreaking decision but Andrew needed full time care and he moved to Bethanie Beachside in August 2013.

On February 5 this year – the day before his birthday – Andrew listened over the phone to those who could not make it to Bethanie to say goodbye while those who did knew it was time.

Julie, Monika and Adam sang happy birthday to him before he let go at 7pm just 5hr before he would have turned 63.

The Otremba family would like to thank everyone for all the love, support and comfort shown to them and for all the floral tributes and cards they received.