The Far North lost a remarkable man when Thomas Richard (Tom) Young passed away suddenly at his home at Cooper's Beach early on Easter Sunday.
Measured by the standard that still applies today, he was not a Far Northerner - he was born in Wanganui on September 27, 1934 - but he became a much admired, hugely loved member of his adopted community, for the the skill, commitment and extraordinary empathy he displayed over more than half a century.
He studied and trained in Dunedin, where he met his wife to be, Judy, who was working as a nurse. They married in Dunedin in 1960, then settled in Timaru, where their first son, Nick, was born, before moving to Kaeo, where second son Greg joined the family. (Chris arrived after they installed themselves in Kaitaia).
Two years later they returned to Dunedin, where Tom acquired a diploma in paediatrics.
It was there in 1965 that Tom received a phone call from Kaitaia GP, Dr Bill Parkes, who was looking for a partner. He phoned on a cold, dismal Dunedin day, and the invitation to return to the Far North had very strong appeal. The couple made the move from one end of the country to the other a second time, and stayed.
The Far North owes Dr Parkes a great deal; the couple not only engrossed themselves in their new community, but Tom was to endear himself to two generations of patients, as a GP, obstetrician and Kaitaia Hospital's anaesthetist with inexhaustible empathy, compassion and a unique sense of humour, never better displayed than in the delivery suite at Kaitaia Hospital.
Very few people who became parents in Kaitaia over more than 30 years would have completed that process without encountering Tom Young, and the great majority of them would have stories about the skill he so successfully married with humour and an utter lack of pretension, born no doubt of his unquestionable love of children and admiration of the women who bore them.
Any suspicion that more ugly babies were born in Kaitaia over those years than anywhere else can now officially be laid to rest. Tom clearly regarded his ability to assist babies into the world as a privilege and a pleasure beyond all others. His affection for the babies he delivered, and their parents, was never hidden.
That affection for his patients, especially perhaps the very young ones, continued to be displayed in the warmth of the welcome they received at his general practice, and universal access to his jelly bean jar. (Patients of all ages were always welcome to dip into that jar, as long as they didn't take the black ones).
There was much more than that to Tom Young though.
He was a good and faithful servant of St John (his contribution earning promotion to the rank of Serving Brother), he was the police surgeon for many years, and he was a Lion. He was a man who always gave much more than he received.
And, after a long and impatient wait, he and Judy became the proudest grandparents in 2003, just reward for a man who had dedicated much of his life to ensuring the safe arrival of countless newborns for equally countless families.
The Far North has never been slow to pay tribute to those who have served it well, but the tributes paid to Tom Young were unparalleled.
The breadth and depth of the affection and regard that he had earned over many years was extraordinary.
He was truly unique within a community that has long been, and still is, very well served by the medicalprofession, a man who was mostwidely known in his professional capacity but was farewelled by most as a friend.
His legacy, fashioned over so many years and undoubtedly at no small cost to the wife and children who must have so often taken second place to his patients, is enormous.
To Bill Parkes goes the credit for making a telephone call to Dunedin all those years ago, and to Tom and Judy Young go thanks for accepting his invitation, and for becoming an unerasable part of our lives.