21 October 1960 – 7 August 2007
The big heart of the Central Plateau and Lake Taupo welcomed me as I drove out of a rain squall up onto the Desert Road from Waiouru. A man with a heart almost as big had tragically died the week before.
Bruce Douglas Grant had suffered a stroke during a visit to Melbourne to watch the All Blacks play the Wallabies. He died in Waikato Hospital on Monday a week ago of complications while undergoing open heart surgery.
The 1500 people who turned up at the Taupo Events Centre were there to celebrate a big man who led a big life.
I hadn’t seen Bruce for 20 years or more, and even before that we didn’t have a close relationship but he left a resounding impression on everyone he met.
He went to the Terrace Primary School, I went to Waipukurau Primary, so we didn’t see much of each other at school either. Our contact came through Cubs then Scouts.
His father Les was the pharmacist in Waipukurau and mine was the bank manager – between our fathers there was a lot of new car buying going on, or so it seemed. Each time one had the responsibility of delivering us to Scouts on a Tuesday night the journey home invariably involved traveling well in excess of the speed limit down dark country roads – just for the thrill of it.
On a Scout trip to the Coromandel (circa 1971) we were given a couple of dollars to buy gifts for our family. Most of us bought penants celebrating Paeroa, and paua shell rings for our sisters, or other non-useful memorabilia. Not Bruce. He went to a secondhand shop and bought an old pair of hedge clippers for Les. Proudly demonstrating his purchase to the rest of us he proceeded to put a big gash in Wayne Kirk’s lilo which he had borrowed from a family friend. The hedge clippers were confiscated and Bruce was forced to sit on his own at the front of the bus for the journey home.
In recent years Bruce ran his business – The Merchant of Taupo – selling fine wines and liqueurs and the food that went with them. He loved it all. Every single picture of him at the service was a shot of Bruce holding a crayfish, or a can of beer, or a big piece of cheese, or a freshly caught fish.
Bruce, although I haven’t seen you for a long long time I’m glad I made the journey to give you a final farewell. Funerals are sad events, but they can also be cathartic. We all need to learn to live our lives with as much zest and vigour as you did in your almost 47 years. As one speaker said:
“Forget about yesterday, don’t worry about tomorrow – just live for today”.
Bruce is survived by his wife Kay, children Abigail and Fergus, mother Barbara, sister Jeni and brothers Rob and Murray.