Star of Courage recipient Charles Zerafa succumbs to cancer battle, having ‘deteriorated quickly’ after bout with coronavirus


Charles Zerafa, the humble hero, has passed away.

Known as ‘Charlie’ to the Circular Head community in Tasmania’s north-west, Mr Zerafa died on Sunday night after a battle with liver cancer, his final weeks made harder after he was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Mr Zerafa was one of two Tasmanians who has died from pre-existing health conditions after having caught, but then been cleared of the coronavirus.

Until the coroner determines the circumstances of the deaths, the state toll from the illness remains at 13.

Mr Zerafa’s close friend Daniel Popowski described the Star of Courage medal recipient as “a hero to everyone”.

“But he never classed himself as one — he just wanted everyone around him to be happy,” he said.

“He’d stop and help anyone, it didn’t matter if he knew them or not, he’d do anything for anyone.

“He’d show up at your house and do your gardening, that’s the sort of person he was.”

Mayor of Circular Head, Daryl Quilliam, described Mr Zerafa as a “lovable larrikin” and said the tight-knit community would miss him.

“Every community has characters like this, but not many of them, so it’s a bit sad to lose a character who was a pretty happy-go-lucky sort of a guy,” he said.

“Everyone leaves a hole in the community, but people like that, people we don’t have many of, probably leave a bigger hole.”

‘He was proud, but he never bragged’

Charles Zerafa was awarded a Star of Courage medal in 2011.(Supplied)

The spotlight fell on Mr Zerafa in 2006 after he put himself in harm’s way to help a police officer.

He was driving from Hobart to Launceston when he came across a badly-wounded police officer, who had been shot in the face, with the gunman still at the scene.

Mr Zerafa negotiated with the gunman while checking on the condition of the fallen officer, refusing to leave even when the gun was pointed directly at him.

He was awarded a Star of Courage medal in 2011 for his actions.

“He was proud but he never bragged about it,” Mr Popowski said.

Mr Quilliam said Mr Zerafa was a humble person and always a bit embarrassed to talk about his heroics.

He ‘went downhill quickly’

Charles Zerafa close up, Tasmania, 2020.
It is believed Mr Zerafa caught coronavirus while undergoing treatment for cancer at the North-West Regional Hospital.(Supplied)

Though Mr Zerafa’s condition had been deteriorating for some time, Mr Popowski said he got worse very quickly once he contracted coronavirus.

It is believed he caught the virus while receiving treatment related to his cancer diagnosis at the North-West Regional Hospital.

Mr Zerafa was diagnosed with coronavirus in April, and later cleared on May 8.

“Since he got that virus he just went downhill a lot,” Mr Popowski said.

“None of us expected it to happen like this because only a couple of months ago he was a healthy, big-build person.”



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