Grieving dad's hospice support grows

By Roger Moroney

When the hammer falls for Lot 20 at Saturday's Hawke's Bay Charity Fine Wine Auction, photographer Richard Brimer's thoughts will be of his son Joseph.

"It will be tough but we'll get through it," Mr Brimer said.

Joseph died in January at the age of 25 after a lifelong battle with a rare blood disorder.

He died at the place he had loved so much - the family's Te Awanga beachfront home .

"He just loved that beach - that place."

It was "that place" which inspired Mr Brimer to take a poignant photograph which he later decided to produce in a limited edition of just 10.

One of them, of the serene summer sunrise over a calm bay, will make up part of Sacred Hill Winery's lot alongside its Riflemans Chardonnay 2013 offering which has been dedicated to Joseph.

"Joseph's strength and courage were an inspiration to all those lucky enough to have spent time in his company - many of the Sacred Hill team were among those lucky ones," chief winemaker Tony Bish said.

For Mr Brimer, there is a real poignancy about this year's 22nd annual charity wine auction.

For the past nine years, he has taken winery photographs for the auction catalogue, and his already strong support for Cranford Hospice just got stronger in the wake of the care and support Joseph, as well as himself, wife Sue and daughters Alice and Anna, received through the final months of Joseph's life - and afterwards.

"Grieving is the absolute hardest thing to go through - we had never been through anything like this," Mr Brimer said.

The support during Joseph's deteriorating condition followed by counselling and calls after he died, had been invaluable and bolstering, he said.

Joseph was born and lived with the blood disorder but last year, while he was travelling overseas, it struck hard.

He returned home and underwent bone-marrow transplants at Wellington Hospital, where he spent about four months, and his initial recovery was promising.

"It all started off well but then it went downhill."

Mr Brimer and his family had to tell him the news - that he was going to die.

"But he was amazing. For a kid of just that age, he took it."

Mr Brimer said Joseph was "just one of those really good kids" who was gentle and funny, and loved his music.

It was only after he died that the family discovered he had been paying into a World Wildlife Fund which looked after at-risk animals.

"We knew nothing about that, but that was Joseph."

Leaving hospital, he returned to the Bay and the care of his family and Cranford.

With the end of his life clearly approaching, they took him back home to the beachfront spot he loved. There he spent the last three days of his life.

Joseph passed away about 1.30am on January 12, "in our arms".

"By about 4am, I needed to clear my head - I went across to the beach while Sue stayed back at the house with him."

He took a time-exposure photograph of the dawning of a new day as a memorial to Joseph - "a reflection of his calming soul".

The family is still grieving, and Mr Brimer will attend the auction at the Tom McDonald Cellar, Church Road Winery, with his daughter Anna.

"Sue is still struggling too much to go."

The Sacred Hill lot has already drawn on-line attention, with $1000 already offered up in bids, while total bidding so far for the 35 lots is just short of $9000.

Through the years, more than $2 million has been raised for Cranford Hospice, with the 2006 auction posting the record of $176,150 - a figure organisers are hoping to match or better on Saturday.

Like the on-line bidding, ticket sales have also been strong, with only about 50 of the 280 available tickets left for the candlelit three-course dinner and auction.

Tickets can be purchased online on

- Hawkes Bay Today

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