Dr Allan Neil White (June 29, 1920-August 8, 2019)
During World War II and in Vietnam, from Taihape to Tauranga, Dr Allan White served others.
The doctor, pilot, serviceman and family man who many in the Bay of Plenty may know from the Tauranga Aero Club or the Mount Medical Centre, died last week in Tauranga.
Dr White's son, London-based Kiwi actor Peter Land, told the Bay of Plenty Times it was a shock for the whole family to have their father die at the age of 99.
"The reason being is that he so wanted to fly his aeroplane at the Tauranga Aero Club as he reached the age of 100," Land said.
"And he was so looking forward to that. It would be just something that he would be absolutely furious about not being able to do," he added with a light laugh.
"His family miss him enormously."
In his eulogy at White's farewell last week, Land said his father was "a true pioneer and one of the last good guys".
"If he could do it, my father would. If he could lend a hand to help, my father would do the same and he could speak to every person he encountered in the same manner and it was because of this humanity that he was so liked. But to his family, he was always so very loved."
Allan Neil White was born in Riccarton, Christchurch on June 29, 1920, to Reverend Neil Oliver White and his American wife, Anna Scheer, from Minnesota.
At the beginning of 1938, White went to Dunedin and sat Medical Intermediate and was accepted for the Otago University School of Medicine, which he graduated from in 1943.
He joined the Royal New Zealand Medical Unit and served as a doctor until the end of the war, picking up along the way a love for aviation.
When White returned home from World War II, he and his new wife, Molly Copeland, moved to Taihape, where White took over a retired doctor's surgery and practised as a surgeon at the local hospital. The couple had three children, David, Sally and Peter.
White helped form the Taihape Flying Club, of which he was the president, and he is also thought to have become New Zealand's first flying doctor during his time in Rangitikei.
He received special permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to fly patients from remote areas to Taihape Hospital, or Whanganui for more serious cases.
White had continued part-time in the Royal New Zealand Air Force after World War II and this resulted in a posting to the Vietnam War in 1969, where he took up the position of Wing Commander/GP Surgeon.
He was the head of a 100-bed hospital in Bong Son just a few kilometres from an American base.
Land said his father – "true to form" – played down his efforts in Vietnam.
"But he did over 120 general anaesthetics per month and received the attention and thanks from the American 173rd Airborne for his service not only to their wounded, but also to many locals caught up in the war."
After Vietnam, in 1972, the family moved to Mount Maunganui and White lent his hand in establishing the Mount Medical Centre.
He joined the Tauranga Aero Club and continued his passion for flying, gaining a commercial pilot's licence in 1977. He was president from 1981 to 1988 and patron from 1993 to 2005.
White was still doing aviation medicals when he retired in 2003, aged 83.
He was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2007 for services to medicine and the community.
He helped many people to get licensed over the years, including a double amputee, and has been recognised for his contribution to women's aviation medicine, in particular for winning approval from the regulator for women to continue flying while pregnant.
He and Molly, who died in 2010, spent their final years at Greenwood Park Retirement Village.
White was recently presented with a prestigious Fédération Aéronautique Internationale award for services to aviation at a function at the Tauranga Aero Club.
Club president Mark Williams said his death was totally unexpected.
"He had no illnesses that we knew of. He would still come to the aero club and have a beer. He was still active ... he was still driving.
"He would turn up randomly to go for a fly as well. He was super genuine. A good old dude," Williams said.
Land, in his eulogy, said while his father's default setting was to be self-deprecating, if you ever got him talking about flying and his time in Vietnam, "he would go on and it would be difficult to get him to stop".
He was quietest while eating oysters and crayfish, which he would tackle like a surgeon in the operating room.
"He would pincer his way, using delicate movements as he pulled every bit, every edible morsel from in front of him," Land said. "This to him was bliss. This made him the happiest."
White is survived by his three children, David, Sally and Peter, grandchildren Nikki, Katie, Josephine and Louis, and great-grandchildren Keira and Summer.
- Additional reporting: Ben Fraser