It will be a funeral of "epic" proportions, but Jan Baker says she wouldn't have it any other way for her formidable yet loyal husband of 25 years.

Baker's death notice for husband and Furniture City owner Roger Butcher stood out like no other in yesterday's Herald: his name in big bold letters and the copy wrapped by a thick black border. She said there was nothing small or discreet about her boisterous, imposing husband, so why should his funeral be.

"We want to make it kind of an epic production, really. Roger, I know he would have said 'I'm worth it, just don't tell me how much it cost'."

Butcher, 71, will be farewelled on Tuesday at a private estate in Mangere, as Baker described in the death notice, "where else but on a private, over-the-top island".


"When we saw this location we just thought, really over the top and lots of champagne," she said. "At the end of the service we're just going to have waiters bring champagne and it's just going to be a real celebration because he had a really big life. He was very bright, he was very, very loyal."

Baker was a fresh-faced 20-year-old about to embark on her big OE when the stars aligned for the couple to meet. She left New Zealand and stopped off in Los Angeles with the goal of getting to London to get a pub job. However, the airline she was travelling on went broke and she was stuck.

She got a job selling waterbed chemicals and Butcher was one of the high-flying waterbed sellers and furniture store owners in the industry.

He knew he wanted to marry her the first time they met.

Their first date involved him flying her down to Hollywood and going for dinner at a private magician's club.

"He chased me around the world. He said I was the hardest sales close that he had ever had. He just wore me down, really."

Roger Butcher and wife Jan Baker pictured in one of their Silicon Valley furniture stores in 1989. Picture / Jan Baker
Roger Butcher and wife Jan Baker pictured in one of their Silicon Valley furniture stores in 1989. Picture / Jan Baker

At the time, waterbeds and weed dominated the Californian landscape along with many "crazy, crazy pot-hazed parties".

"In the 60s, 70s, and 80s the waterbed industry was huge. One of the old hippies said to me the other day, that in those days 'you either had a waterbed, wanted a waterbed or you had children or you were dead'.

"It was just a very crazy time. These were the guys that protested Vietnam. It was like peace, love and waterbeds."

He also used to put a lot of energy into his furniture stores.

"He used to put on a gorilla suite and run around the streets advertising his business.

"They had velvet covered waterbeds and their stores were open 24 hours a day. It was really quite disturbing; these crazy hippies that used to do absolutely crazy things and have wild parties."

After winning her over, three years later they were getting married in New Zealand. Butcher fell in love with the country, so sold his eight furniture stores in Silicon Valley, and eventually bought an Auckland Furniture City store, which was in the stages of liquidation.

"When we moved to New Zealand we were planning to semi-retire. He was 50. He always said he didn't want another company, didn't want any inventory, didn't want any staff and we ended up with $5 million in inventory and 60 staff, so we didn't plan it very well."

In 1991, the New Zealand furniture industry had never seen anything like him, she said, "because he was a big, brash American who smoked cigars and drove a big American car".

She said his health had started to fail him in recent times, so they sold their company last year. However, his death was still a shock.

His death was yet to sink in, but she didn't want to wallow in it yet, instead she was happy soaking up all the stories from friends and family.

"There was just this little flash of recognition that he's not going to phone. I think at some point it will hit but at the moment I'm enjoying the reminiscing."

Butcher is also survived by son Josh, 43, daughter Caity, 20, and foster daughter Naomi, as well his two grandchildren.