Bruce Douglas Grant – R.I.P

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.

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7 thoughts on “Bruce Douglas Grant – R.I.P”

  1. Hi Alan,

    Extraordinary how the threads of life cross each other – not only did we miss each other by a few days heading down the Coast (nice pics) but I also knew Bruce Grant.
    I studied hotel management up at the CIT in the early eighties and our year inherited Bruce when he was required to repeat the second or third year of the course (can’t remember which). Of course we all knew Bruce from the previous year(s) and it would be fair to say that my memories of him aren’t based around his brilliant academic achievements. Rather, there are two very strong images that I have managed to store away that will always remind me of the way that he embraced life albeit 25 years ago:
    1/As an enforcer – at an early season rugby match I was watching from the sidelines when one of the opposition made some transgression that raised Bruce’s ire. Suddenly the guy was flat on his back and looking very worse for the wear. Although I was only metres away, I had no idea of what had just happened – the poor guy on the ground even less. The only clue being Bruce sauntering back to position.
    2/ As an entertainer – in the last days of our academic (read drinking) endeavours, we were all invited to a classmate’s 21st up in Marton. Bruce and his good mate Kieran Hughes somehow managed to keep the tempo going for a full 48 hours with the song and dance routine around the hangi pit on the Sunday afternoon being memorable for not only the wit but also the endurance.

    The last time I saw Bruce was in 1983 and being in the wine trade I have come across mention of Bruce quite regularly but it wasn’t until quite recently that I actually spoke to him again after all this time. He had the good grace to remember me as the ‘skinny guy’ and make mention of me to a workmate as that ‘shirker’ but obviously he had made much more of an impression on me than me on him. I’m more than happy to have it left that way.

    My sincere condolences to Bruce’s family + friends

  2. Hi Doaky,
    I dont know how many times I recounted that same story to friends
    at the funeral and the days leading up to the funeral.I had completely forgotten that you were on that same trip.Bruce certainly touched a lot of people on his lifes journey and I was lucky enough to be one of his close friends.He was an inspiration to everbody that he met.
    I bought dad a bottle opener on that scout trip, with a maori carving on the end of it, which he used daily up until his death last year.
    Mum said you were coming to the funeral,I kept an eye out for you sorry we did not catch up.Kind regards Kirky.

  3. What special stories about Bruce—thank-you Skinny. I will be keeping these for his children and I know that they will enjoy reading these from friends of his who were in his own personal history as he grew up–of course we may have heard them before but as Bruiser always said “don’t ever let the facts screw up a good story!”

    Many people have sent me messages about the funeral and how fitting it was —our chief concern was to say goodbye in a way which reflected the man he was to us–husband,father son, brother and the best mate one could ever find. I hope you all enjoyed good food and wine afterwards!

  4. Thanks for your comments Kay. I know you must be going through a very hard time, but what a fantastic send off you gave Bruce – and it must be comforting, but not a surprise, that so many people felt the need to be there to send him off.

    All the best,
    Alan

  5. What a shock ! Ive just learned via Hunger for the Wild that Bruce has passed away. I want to extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends and anyone that was touched by his presence. I havent seen him for 25 odd years (TeAnau) but he was instantly recognisable on TV and just as I remembered him, the lovable larrikin.

    Kindest regards to all,
    Grant Grieve

  6. Thanks for the comment Grant. It was a bit of a shock to see him on the TV for me as well, but a great record for his family.

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