Editorial: A long life well lived

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At an age when most people contemplate putting their feet up, Claude Stratford set out to build a global empire.

The 102-year-old founder of the natural health and beauty products company Comvita died on Wednesday.

The pioneering businessman, philanthropist and Queen's Service Medal recipient died just six weeks shy of his 103rd birthday.

Mr Stratford founded his company in 1974 at the age of 63, making and selling a range of bee products from the basement of his Paengaroa home.

From its humble beginnings, the business, which was meant to be a small retirement venture, grew into a global phenomenon, earning more than $100 million in annual sales in 18 overseas markets.

It is an amazing achievement made even more awe-inspiring by the fact he achieved it all in his twilight years.

During that time, he was awarded a Queen's Service Medal for services to the community, was a finalist in the national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and, to celebrate his 100th birthday, a PhD scholarship was established in his name.

He also practised what he preached and credited his long life to his daily dose of supplements and a tablespoon of bee pollen and Comvita manuka honey.

His friends and colleagues spoke of a great man who had made a huge difference to the community and the health food industry.

They also spoke of his humour and his humanitarian values.

Sharon Oden, who managed the rest home where Mr Stratford spent his last years, provided an insight into his friendly nature.

She said when children came to the rest home in Te Puke they all wanted to meet him and he took great delight in telling them how old he was.

His life was an amazing journey that should serve as an inspiration to others.

He has left a great legacy for the region and the rest of the country.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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