(The following was delivered by Richard Kerr at the service to honour Roger Kerr’s life on Thursday 3 November 2011 at 2.30pm at Old St Paul’s in Wellington.)
I feel truly privileged that I could provide Dad with love, support and comic relief during my nightly visits over the past couple of months. And he, of course, provided the same in kind.
Despite his decline being hard to bear for all concerned, he approached the end of his life with the same courage, boldness and calmness that had been the hallmarks of his life in general. He tried valiantly to slay this bugger of a disease with such optimism and grace. And this made this whole tragic process much easier to handle.
Dad would rally, at least a little, each time I and others he cared about visited. To be greeted warmly with a smile, even at the times when he was severely knocked about from the treatment or disease, was always incredibly touching.
Many people would have loved to have visited Dad during what turned out to be his last weeks. I’m sorry for those of you who missed out.
Lots of fantastic people were involved in Dad’s health care, as Alan has already mentioned, and for which I am grateful.
Thanks to Dad’s wider support team of friends whose heart-felt messages buoyed him and the family through this time. Thanks also for all the flowers and food. Especially the multitude of chicken pies.
I think it’s easy to feel uncomfortable being thanked for doing something that you just do because you love someone. And I am sure the family and close friends I would particularly like to single out today feel the same way. But, sorry, I am going to publicly thank you anyway.
I feel indebted to the assistance of Catherine’s sons Tom and Sam who were available in New Zealand to be there to help out. Thank you for carrying him through this time.
Thanks to Tom’s fiancé Michelle and Catherine’s sister Diana for looking after Dad and Catherine during this period and before.
Thanks so much to Dad’s dear old friend David Leonard whose expertise and measured manner were reassuring. Thanks also to Uncle Alan and Auntie Hazel for their care and attention.
Most of all I would like to thank Catherine whose tireless devotion day and night more than fitted Dad’s description of her. “Catherine is pretty legendary” he said, on one of the two nights when I had the opportunity to play night nurse for him to give Catherine some respite. During these nightly chats, in which he kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, Dad covered a lot of topics. He knew that life goes on and the ideas he wanted to advance will always need champions, so he was very encouraging of Catherine standing for ACT.
He also got to tell me how much he loved Catherine: “I think the world of her” and “I love her to bits” were two things he said that I remember. As well as having a great intellect Dad had a sensitive side.
I’ll turn now to a more light-hearted look at Dad. Nicholas’s story about his technological ineptitude reminded me of the time when I was working for Catherine at her PR firm Awaroa Partners. After a few weeks working there, she happened to be filling an administrative position at the company. One morning I witnessed a steady stream of applicants entering her office one by one for their interviews.
Coming up to lunchtime Dad happened to walk into Catherine’s office to drop some papers off. I hurriedly dashed off an email to Catherine which read something like:
“Dear Catherine, please be warned that I know of the latest applicant who has just entered your office. I have grave concerns about his suitability. Please don’t hire him. He can barely work a mouse.”
Eventually, with the assistance and persistence of Catherine, Dad did manage to become pretty adept with his iPad and was even getting the hang of his iPhone. However, he still did most of his writing by hand.
There are a couple of other sides to Dad that many of you may not have experienced.
Dad had questionable taste in music. Some of his favourites were Elaine Page, Susan Boyle, ABBA and Neil Diamond.
He also had a penchant for gadgets that didn’t really work, and weren’t entirely necessary — like the ones you’d find in those “Innovations” catalogues.
A few I can recall:
- An inflatable executive-sized Lilo with drink holders. (Please note, we never had a swimming pool.)
- An alarm clock with white noise and the sound of waves to soothe him to sleep. (This, in practice, actually kept him awake, and so was quickly mothballed.)
- Lastly an enormous, almost A4 sized remote control. (Again, barely used)
I remember he was quite beside himself when the American chain store he bought these from, “The Sharper Image”, filed for bankruptcy.
I’ll miss sharing a laugh with Dad about these minor foibles.
I’ll miss spending a couple of hours with him each night.
And I’ll miss having him around when our first baby is born at the end of this year.
But I take comfort in the fact that Dad really gave his work and life his best shot.
I love you Dad.
I miss you.
(The eulogy given by Bryce Wilkinson at the service can be found here, the speech delivered by Roger’s brother Alan Kerr can be found here, the speech delivered by Dr. David Leonard can be found here, and the speech by Nicholas Kerr can be found here.)