Phil Taylor is a Weekend Herald and New Zealand Herald senior staff writer.

Public farewell for public man

Famous and infamous share memories and mourn Sir Paul.

Sebastian Glover was there for his good mate Reuben Holmes. They've been friends since school and it was in his embrace that Reuben let his emotions flow after delivering the coffin bearing his father to the hearse escorted by a solitary piper.

Glover had travelled from Wellington. "I know that Reuben would do the same for me," he told the Weekend Herald.

Sir Paul Holmes' family did brilliantly. It can't have been easy to have shared so much of their man with his public. The service at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell was the public farewell to the public man.

The stories about the dad and the husband he was, you suspect, were for a private occasion.

Millie Elder was elegant and held her composure inside the cathedral when she read in a wavering voice the words her father wrote when she was in the midst of methamphetamine addiction ("Always trust love ... find out who you are ... be proud of your strengths and laugh at your weaknesses ...

be brave even if you are frightened) and outside, obliging the cameras, an arm each around her brother and Deborah Lady Holmes, their stepmother.

Reuben, dark glasses offering some privacy, quoted the late American stand-up comedian Bill Hicks.

"The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it's very brightly coloured, and it's very loud, and it's fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, 'Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?' And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, 'Hey, don't worry; don't be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride'."

There were plenty of stories about Sir Paul's talent and determination to succeed and a few about the times he didn't get it. The singing, the dancing, the books, all were fine but his former radio boss Bill Francis baulked when his star told him he thought he could become Mayor of Auckland and keep doing his radio show.

Mr Francis revealed there was a time Sir Paul fancied himself in government but didn't like the idea of paying his dues on the back benches. "Why can't I go straight into Cabinet?" he'd asked. He was never afraid to go after what he wanted.

About 900 people watched the service in the cathedral, 40 others on a screen outside. One was Mark Stephens. He said he was there because Sir Paul had bothered to try to hear his story. These days, Mr Stephens works in a methamphetamine education programme and so they have that crusade in common.

But in the early 1990s, the public knew him as a rapist dubbed the Parnell Panther. Sir Paul took a helicopter to where he was on parole in the Far North. "He gave me $100 to buy Benson & Hedges for him and marshmallows and chockie biscuits and Coke," said Mr Stephens. "We had morning tea but I said 'no thanks'."

John Hawkesby told of the time Sir Paul asked to see the most expensive bottle in the Hawkesby wine cellar, an ancient vintage of Penfolds Grange which he told Sir Paul was worth about what he had paid for his first Bentley. "Well," was the reply, "I'd like to try it."

"So thanks for the memories and the big big heart," Mr Hawkesby concluded. "So long, you clever, charming, courageous, cheeky little whitey."

If you can dream it....

Sir Paul Holmes' daughter Millie, supported by her brother Reuben, read this poem at yesterday's service. It was written by Sir Paul at a time Millie was battling with the drug P.

Remember this. Love always wins. It might take longer than evil and hatred, resentment and envy, but love always wins. Always trust love. Remember, water can cut through iron. Find out who you are. Know who you are. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Be proud of your strengths and laugh at your weaknesses. Be brave even if you are frightened. Value yourself. There is only one of you. Don't worry if you feel different from everyone else. We are all different. Good luck to you all. But make your own luck. If you can dream it, begin it.

From Holmes at Large - The Best of Paul Holmes Weekly Columns - 2010

- NZ Herald

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