Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Loving tributes to Sir Paul Holmes

Friends and colleagues of Sir Paul tell Natalie Akoorie what he meant to them.

Sir Paul Holmes met his death in the same way he lived his life openly and honestly according to close friend Michelle Boag.

"He faced death the way that he lived, in the sense that he spent all those years bringing the real world into our living room and right up to his death he continued that. The fact that he did an interview when he was so sick and he talked frankly."

Ms Boag helped organise a Thank You Paul Holmes event in Auckland last October when dozens of the charities Sir Paul supported over the years surprised him with tributes.

"There's two things I'd say about Paul. He's very compassionate and humane. And I've often said to him in the past, his humanity is what distinguished him from many other people in the media."

Michelle Boag is a public relations expert who met Sir Paul when he was on radio in Wellington in the 1980s.

Fellow broadcaster John Hawkesby said he was still shocked at the news of Sir Paul's death despite his friend's ailing health.

Mr Hawkesby, who read radio and television news at the same time as Sir Paul began making his mark in broadcasting in the 1980s, recalled a quick-witted, "one-off" trend-setter who had an "action-packed career".

"He's irreplaceable. He brought a new style of vigour and a glorious lack of respect. He had the ability to articulate exactly what you were thinking and say it in exactly the way that you would say it.

"He didn't stand on pretence and had this wonderful ability to treat people the same."

Mr Hawkesby, who was the master of ceremonies at the Thank You Paul Holmes dinner, said in hindsight the evening turned out to be "wonderful timing".

"We knew he was sick, we didn't realise he was that sick."

During a video of Sir Paul's career highlights, he leaned over to Mr Hawkesby and said: "I'm loving all the speeches. Do I get the right of reply at the end?

"I said 'Yes of course you do, we've allowed 10 minutes'. And then he looked at me and there was this silence between us and I said 'We both know that's not enough time' and he said 'Bloody hell it ain't'."

Sir Paul lamented that he hadn't prepared a speech but Mr Hawkesby replied he was always at his best when not prepared.

"I said 'You know your stream of conscious is better than anybody else's' and he said 'Watch'.

"He spoke with eloquence, humour, insights, perception, brilliance for almost 30 minutes off the top of his head and he had the room at one moment ... convulsive with laughter and the next there wasn't a dry eye in the house."

John Hawkesby and Sir Paul worked in competing radio stations in Auckland and under the same roof at TVNZ as broadcasters in the 1980s and 90s.

Brent Harman offered Sir Paul a job at Station 1ZB in early 1987 after recognising a rare talent.

"Without a doubt he's an extraordinarily gifted journalist and broadcaster and we knew that he was gifted but in a career that then lasted another 20-something years he demonstrated it in spades.

"He wasn't formally trained as a journalist but he showed himself to be an extremely good journalist. And as a broadcaster one of the few people who could tell stories and let other people tell stories in a way that captured the minds and hearts of all the people who watched and listened to him.

"To be honest I don't think we will ever see again a journalist and broadcaster as gifted as he was. He's a very special talent and he's one out of the box, and those people just don't come along."

Mr Harman said his friend's death was a shock even though Sir Paul was in ill health but he felt lucky to have attended the investiture where the pair caught up.

"It's lovely to have been able to say goodbye to him. Sometimes you don't get the opportunity. 62 years old is not very old."

Brent Harman was the manager of 1ZB when the newstalk format was set up in 1987 and Sir Paul joined the new team as a radio breakfast host.

Close friend Mike Williams said he was "shattered" over Sir Paul's death but he took heart in half a century worth of treasured memories.

"My feeling at the moment is I was singularly blessed to have crossed paths with Paul. He's been a very good friend to me in times when I've needed a very good friend.

"We've had some really marvellous, rambunctious times together. He had an anarchic sense of humour. He was extremely bright."

Sir Paul was one of the most generous of people. "He once lent his brand new Jaguar to a down-at-heel bride. She was a complete stranger."

Mike Williams is a former Labour Party president and has remained friends with Sir Paul since their first day at Karamu High School in Hastings 50 years ago.

Bill Francis was Sir Paul's boss for 17 years at Newstalk ZB during which time they became close friends and colleagues.

"He wanted to convey news and current affairs to the masses rather than to an elite or the people who were supposedly the knowledgeable and he succeeded in doing that. People warmed to how he worked on air and on television. And he did that ... better than anyone who has done it."

Mr Francis said Sir Paul's ambitions were not limited to broadcasting.

"There were always other things that attracted him and that he thought he could do. He seriously considered the Auckland mayoralty."

He also had his pilot's licence and was interested in space travel.

In his early days of radio Sir Paul upset broadcasting authorities by calling the Archbishop of Canterbury over an issue.

A letter saying he could not offer anything more to New Zealand broadcasting has been framed in Sir Paul's toilet ever since.

At the time Sir Paul was heading overseas where he worked in radio in Australia, Europe and Britain and learned several languages.

Mr Francis said Sir Paul's legacy would live on for a long time "as someone who absolutely captured the imagination of New Zealanders".

Bill Francis was the Newstalk ZB station boss and worked with Sir Paul for 17 years.

Sir Paul was a challenging and robust interviewer according to former Prime Minister Helen Clark who spent hours the night before their weekly Monday morning radio slot, preparing for what he might ask.

"He kept you on your toes. We didn't always end every interview as friends but I was always back the next time. I liked Paul Holmes.

"I had known him since I was a minister in the late 1980s. We go back a very long way and it's a very sad day for me too."

Helen Clark said it was "part of my life" to talk to Sir Paul on radio and on the Holmes show most weeks.

She called him the pre-eminent broadcaster of his era.

"He had an endlessly inquiring mind ... He was incredibly well read. If you ever went to his home as I did very occasionally you'd find books everywhere.

"He effected the touch of the man in the street but he was very knowledgeable. He wanted to get to the truth of the matter. He would push and push until he could get as close as he could to what he wanted to know. He had a tremendous amount of energy, and a deep interest in people. He actually had a very kind heart as well and all of those things I think made him able to relate to people. We'll always remember the classic signing off line on the Holmes show 'Those were our people, [that was Holmes] tonight'."

Helen Clark was the Prime Minister from 1999 to 2008 when she was interviewed by Sir Paul every week.

- NZ Herald

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