Des Ferrow - a man described as "probably Tauranga's greatest ever philanthropist" - has died.
Called the "godfather of giving', Desmond "Des" Joseph Ferrow was one of the city's foremost property developers, who quietly ploughed millions of dollars into local causes.
His death notice states he died peacefully at home on December 5 "after 87 years of uneventful living". The tongue-in-cheek description was in keeping with his preference for flying under the radar.
Ferrow was the force behind the Tauranga Charitable Trust and used his business acumen for the good of the city.
TECT chairman and Holland Beckett law firm consultant Bill Holland described him as
"probably Tauranga's greatest ever philanthropist".
"But few people will be aware of this because he was so humble and never put his name to his gifts."
Many people benefited from his kindness and often never found out where the help came from, he said.
Former Tauranga Mayor and Bay of Plenty Regional councillor Stuart Crosby said Ferrow liked to operate as a "committee of one" so as not draw attention to his generosity and was responsible for "many, many charitable projects".
Crosby said his generosity helped ensure the survival of The Elms Mission House and he was a significant funder behind the 17th Avenue Historic Village rebuild.
"Des was one of life's unique characters ... An astute business leader and very generous prolific benefactor who has left an incredible legacy in this city."
Ferrow's willingness to help others was inspired by his own tough upbringing after the death of his father during World War II.
Australian-born, Ferrow arrived in Tauranga in 1954 when the city was a borough of just 12,500 people. He soon set about changing the landscape of Tauranga Moana forever.
Born October 29, 1933, in Wollongong, New South Wales, he was the only child of parents Eileen and Joseph Ferrow. His father was killed on May 14, 1943.
Sergeant Joseph Ferrow was an orderly on the Australian ( hospital ship) Centaur when he was sunk by a Japanese torpedo as it headed up to coast to the Solomon Islands to rescue wounded Australian troops.
Des Ferrow was brought up in a single-parent family after his father died. He left school at 15 and worked in a local department store. At age 21, he left Australia to see the world but only got as far as New Zealand.
He sold hammers, nails and toilet pans for Andrew Patterson & Son in Auckland and was so successful he was transferred to the Tauranga branch to manage it.
He briefly ventured back to Wollongong in 1957 to marry his late wife Maralyn. They were inseparable for 62 years until her death on May 20 last year.
In 1959, Ferrow and two partners seized the opportunity to go into business on their own, trading under the name of FE Malcolm Limited at premises in 7th Ave.
The business grew to include a timber and steel operation in Judea and soon began providing timber and other building materials to Beazley Homes.
The company exported construction, hardware and plumbing materials to the Pacific Islands and Australia, before setting up a timber operation in Brisbane.
Ferrow ventured into land development, starting with residential homes in Welcome Bay and Mount Maunganui.
Fellow Tauranga businessman and philanthropist Tom Roper said he and Ferrow worked on a raft of ventures.
This included not-for-profit fundraising projects such as raising funds to buy a heart machine for Tauranga Hospital in the 1980s and supporting Tauranga Riding for Disabled.
In 2004/2005, Ferrow and Roper's two separate charitable trusts came together to build a five luxury apartments complex in Pillans Rd.
All the proceeds from the $8m development went to Waipuna Hospice and the Compass Community Village of which Ferrow was the patron.
"Des was a unique, unselfish human being. He was a huge benefactor in helping many individuals, families and organisations in this town," Roper said.
Without him, the historic Elms Mission House would have fallen to the bulldozers, and
many community organisations may have had to close their doors years ago, he said.
"Des was always fair and reasonable and applied that to his life and his business dealings. His favourite saying was 'you have to leave something in for the next chap to gain from'."
"In my humble opinion, Des was the most influential person in this city over the last 35 years and his passing is a huge loss to Tauranga. He will be sorely missed."
Sir Bob Clarkson said he was "stunned and saddened" by Ferrow's death.
"If there was anyone I would like to meet again when I get to heaven, it's Des Ferrow.
"Des was one good Aussie, who did great things for this town in his unique, understated way. He was a well-liked and highly respected both as a property developer and a philanthropist and we will all miss him."
Tommy Kapai Wilson, the executive director of Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust, said Ferrow was one of life's "genuine good buggers".
"Des could do a deal in his tracksuit pants and stories of flash Harrys from the big smoke coming into town all suited up trying to stitch up 'The godfather of giving" are legendary.
"We will all miss Des' quick-witted, well-informed sense of humour and his understated humility when helping organisations such as Te Tuinga and hundreds of others across Tauranga Moana. "
Sir Paul Adams said he had the "good fortune" to be involved with several commercial and philanthropic projects with Ferrow over the past 35 years.
"Des was a one-off in many ways, both in his astute business dealings and charitable life, and a man who could be trusted with a handshake closing a deal. His word was his bond."
Adams said his fairness to all parties was "widespread and legendary" and often carried out his charitable works with "stealth" and without gratitude expected.
"Tauranga city has lost a great resident, sportsman, business, philanthropist and a friend to many, and the city will not be quite the same with his passing," he said.
Waipuna Hospice CEO Richard Thurlow agreed.
"He was a member of a group of local businessmen and philanthropists who ensured the survival of Waipuna Hospice in 2003 during the organisations worst funding crisis.
"Des was instrumental in helping fundraise for the building developments so Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty has one of the best hospice facilities in the country. "
Ian Thomas, chairman of The Elms Foundation Trust, said Ferrow's philanthropy was a "very important" part of the history of The Elms.
"He was the driving force behind the trust's establishment and lead the effort to raise the funds needed to acquire the property in 1998 and place it into trust ownership.
Thomas said Ferrow through the Tauranga Charitable Trust also contributed a substantial amount of money to complete the purchase.
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said Ferrow was one of the city's original founding fathers who worked with Priority One to champion a new model of economic development to New Zealand in the early 2000s.
Massive shoes to fill
Des Farrow's eldest son, Glenn Ferrow, said his parents had a "perfect partnership".
"Mum was happy to keep the home fires burning while our father was doing what he did best ... There were no potholes in their 62 years of marriage. "
Glenn said his father always set aside special time for his family.
"Dad's death has left a huge void in our lives and many other lives in our community."
Ferrow was still planning his next venture at the time of his death, and the day before he had helped organise close friend Arthur (Snow) Temperton's funeral," he said.
"Dad came home and drank a couple of scotches. He then went to sleep and just never woke up. It's the same way mum passed. It shocked the hell out of us."
Glenn said his father's philanthropic pursuits were legendary.
"Dad never forgot his tough humble beginnings, and he was always able to put himself in the shoes of those suffering hardships and those who were disadvantaged."
A great spin bowler, Des Ferrow played for the Albion Cricket Club, then the Bay of Plenty and Northern Districts representative teams in the 1950s and 1960s.
He was also a keen tennis player, and passionate about horseracing, and owned a number of horses and also belonged to a number of horseracing syndicates.
Glenn said he and his family were "immensely proud" of his father's achievements.
"We all miss him terribly."
Ferrow is also survived by son Graeme, daughter Kim, and his five grandsons Matthew, Jacob, Bradley, Kyle and Jason.