Comvita founder Claude Stratford, 102, dies

Comvita founder Claude Stratford has died, aged 102, leaving behind a "tremendous" legacy.

Mr Stratford, a Queens Service Medal recipient and philanthropist, died this morning at his Te Puke home.

Mr Stratford founded Comvita in 1974, at the age of 63, by making and selling a range of bee products from the basement in his home in Paengaroa.

From those humble beginnings Comvita has grown into a New Zealand export success story, generating over $100 million annual sales in 18 markets around the world.

Comvita co-founder and non-executive director Alan Bougen said Mr Stratford was an outstanding New Zealander and a pioneer in the health food industry.

"He was a man of indomitable spirit and good humour, who has left a tremendous legacy for the Bay of Plenty and New Zealand. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."

Mr Stratford acquired his first beehive in 1921 at age 11, establishing a life-long association with beekeeping. His belief in the health-giving properties of bee and other natural plant products contributed to numerous innovations in natural health science.

He was awarded the Queen's Service Medal in 1999 for his service to the community. In 2005, at the age of 95, he was a finalist in the national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In 2010, to celebrate his 100th birthday, a scholarship in his name was established in association with the Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology at the University of Auckland. The scholarship is for a PhD student studying a topic related to natural health products.

Comvita chief executive Brett Hewlett said Mr Stratford's pioneering spirit, his humanitarian values and his commitment to natural remedies and human health are still the cornerstone of Comvita today.

"Claude spent his life bringing the health benefits offered by nature to people in New Zealand and around the world. He has been, and will continue to be, an inspiration to us all. We express our deep condolences to his family."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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