Donald (Don) Cowey

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We remember the people who lost their lives in the Christchurch earthquake. Learn more and share your memories and thoughts.

Don Cowey. Photo / Supplied
Don Cowey. Photo / Supplied

Donald (Don) Ashby Cowey had wandered out to his garden to pick some raspberries for a get-together on the evening of February 22.

As he was doing so, the devastating earthquake hit Christchurch - and it was the last time anyone saw the celebrated architect alive.

Don, 82, died when a large rock was dislodged above his Redcliffs home and crushed him.

"If he had been just a metre forward from where he was ... he would still be here with us today," said Don's devastated daughter, Margaret Brown.

"He was very severely crushed by an enormously heavy weight. It took quite a lot of trouble to retrieve him."

Inside Don's home, his wife Jocelyn was thrown to the kitchen floor by the quake - and in central Christchurch, Don's son Paul was stranded on the 17th floor of his central city office building when the staircases collapsed, and had to be rescued out of a window.

Paul Cowey does not like to dwell on his own ordeal, instead focusing on remembering his father and his generous spirit.

Don was a much-loved husband, father and father-in-law, and a good friend and mentor of many, he said.

"He was unbelievably giving, in many ways. People have talked about how they felt accepted when they were with him. He seems to have just had a profound effect on people."

Aside from the many prominent buildings around Canterbury that he designed, Don was known for dedicating his life to helping people.

You can see some of the many buildings he designed here.

Don and his wife built and ran the Redcliffs Rest Home, not to make money but because they saw a pressing need for a facility for the elderly and ill in the area.

Friends told the Herald Don and his wife always opened their doors and shared their time and wisdom to whoever needed it. While they could have lived far more extravagantly, they chose to live a simple life without the "flashy" possessions.

Friend Anne Morrow said: "They made choices for others, not just for themselves."

Friend Ross Buckingham said Don would go to "extreme lengths" to help someone with a problem, no matter what it was.

"He was the epitome of a real gentleman."

Friend Leigh Page said: "He did have a big love for people and reaching the lost wherever they were."

Margaret Brown said her father was active and vibrant right up until his death and was always coming up with new visions for the future. He had recently built his terraced fruit and vegetable garden and loved working in it.

"He was a strong man in principle, but also very tender and good-hearted. I couldn't have had a better father."

Christine Sine wrote on a remembrance website that Mr and Mrs Cowey "opened their home and their hearts" to her even though she was a complete stranger.

- NZ Herald

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