As we travel through life we meet many people. Some just pass by and are quickly forgotten and others you always remember.
When the receptionist came into my office and told me a man at the front desk called Billy Apple wanted to see me, I thought she was joking.
Yes, she was sure that's the name he gave. I remember thinking "this person I have got to see". Who has a name like that? I'd change it if it was mine.
Funny thing, that's exactly what happened. Billy changed his name to Billy Apple.
What struck me that first time I met Billy, apart from the eye-catching large red-rimmed glasses he was wearing, was his quiet unassuming manner.
I had no idea then of his reputation as a contemporary artist here in New Zealand and overseas. It must have been obvious to Billy I was pretty naive when it came to art.
I'm pretty much the "I'll like it when I see it" kind of art lover. He said he wanted to help raise money for Women's Refuge and thought he could design and make something for us. I wasn't exactly sure what he had in mind and I soon discovered Billy had plenty of ideas to put forward.
Ultimately he would choose though.
As soon as he left the office I went searching to find out more about Billy Apple. He was a very accomplished artist. He was a pioneering pop and conceptual artist, one of New Zealand's most influential visual artists. In the early 1960s, he studied at the Royal College of Art in London and then moved to New York in 1964.
He became a prominent part of the art movement spearheaded by Andy Warhol. I had to go searching Andy Warhol too, another name I was unfamiliar with then.
Billy's generous time and effort raised many thousands of dollars for Women's Refuge. On that occasion, we had a well-attended launch at the Governor-General's residence in Wellington.
And so began a lovely friendship with Billy and his partner Mary Morrison.
Because I didn't understand pop art he would try to explain what got him excited. It wasn't art that I was familiar with, I thought it bordered on advertising, so he took his time and would sometimes draw diagrams to help explain.
When I still didn't get it he would laugh and we all just enjoyed our evenings together.
He had wonderful stories of his time in London and New York. I think Billy was destined to get away from New Zealand. Now that I know how different and groundbreaking his work was I wonder what the New Zealand art world would have thought of it back then.
I have heard they can be very critical of artists who dare to be different.
How wonderful to develop and bring your talent to the world in New York. The place they say "if you can make it here you can make it anywhere".
Billy never got impatient with me as I tried to understand "his brand" and the economics of the art world that encompassed design, advertising, collecting, science and mathematics. He would make sure I got invitations to art exhibitions so my knowledge of contemporary art could grow.
And it did. I am not an expert by any means but I now know many forms of art are different, with new forms evolving all the time, and by exploring these our sense of wonder at what we are seeing, extends to the respect and admiration we share for the artist too.
In 2005 Billy was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to art. He died this month in Auckland.
A unique New Zealander remembered for his extraordinary talent. Moe mai ra Billy, moe mai ra.
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is chairwoman of the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency, a Lakes District Health Board member and Rotorua District councillor.