Eketahuna's Charlie Death was described as a "genuine good bloke," by those who packed the Nireaha Hall last Saturday afternoon for the presentation of his Tararua District civic honour. It was an afternoon of laughter and more than a few tears as the community came together to celebrate the man they call the mayor of Eketahuna.
Charlie had made a wonderful contribution to the Tararua District and it was extremely special for the celebration to be held in the Nireaha Hall, Tararua District Mayor Tracey Collis said.
"Charlie's level of service is recognised by the attendance of two former mayors, Roly Ellis and Maureen Reynolds, and reflects the years he has passionately served this community," she said.
"Community is at the heart of everything Charlie does with pride and enthusiasm. He has served with integrity, care and respect and always champions Eketahuna and promotes this wonderful town like no one else.
"He's committed to improving the quality of life here and spends time listening and supporting and caring for others. It's that deep love for people in their time of need which is the mark of Charlie. The Tararua District is only 29 years old, but Charlie has been looking after Eketahuna forever. This award shows how much Charlie means to us."
Don Selby, of the Pahiatua Railcar Restoration Society, said Charlie formed the spine of what made rural communities tick.
"He's widely known as a good bugger," he said. "If you've got a problem, ask Charlie, he will probably fix it. His enthusiasm is infectious."
Many years ago Charlie was accidentally shot in a hunting accident and is lucky to be alive.
"He's a walking miracle, with three months in Hutt Hospital and another month recovering," Tom Fleming, representing the Southern Tararua Health Shuttle, said.
"Because the medical fraternity and the community had been so good to him them, he wanted to give back. That's why he's been so involved."
Charlie has been a member of the Eketahuna Community Board for 20 years, eight as chairman and for the last seven and a half years he's been a volunteer with the Southern Tararua Health Shuttle. They are just a few of the many ways he gives to his community.
"He donates one day a week to the shuttle, but on top of that he drives 30km each way to pick up the shuttle in Pahiatua and that shows real dedication," Tom said.
Not one to get ruffled, Charlie's philosophy if something ever goes wrong is simply, "well, that's life."
Affectionately called the mayor of Eketahuna, Charlie wore so many hats for a vast number of organisations, he would need a pretty big wardrobe to fit them all, Tom said.
Civic awards were not given lightly and it was only people like Charlie who did so much for their community who receive the award.
"As a result of his hunting accident, Charlie love's life and helping others," Collis said.
Tararua District Council resilience officer Paddy Driver said Charlie had played an integral role in Eketahuna civil defence.
"Eketahuna has a well-designed, strategic civil defence plan which leads this district and organisations over the hill," he said. "Within half an hour of the January 2014 Eketahuna earthquake, the Minister of Civil Defence was asking for an update on the situation. Charlie was on to it. He's a great leader in this community."
Collis said Charlie was passionate about civil defence and lived and breathes it.
Richard Taylor, Tararua District Council's governance manager of 40 years, said, as chairman of the Eketahuna Community Board, Charlie worked hard to bring many pieces of the jigsaw of his community together.
"Charlie gets things done," he said. "He shows real dedication and commitment, but he just about choked on his tea when rung and told of his civic honour. He's a person who doesn't like the limelight, he just wants to get on and do it well. For him, it's all about the team."
Di Eagle, a member of the Eketahuna Community Board, also said Charlie was the district's "mayor".
"He is always there when anything happens, always the one who attends all the events, he puts the face of Eketahuna out there," she said.
"I've been with Charlie on the board since he became chairman and I appreciate he does all the things a duck does underwater while letting the rest of us on the board do what we do best. He lets people get on with their jobs. That's why we have such a great main street upgrade."
And you can forget the old saying, behind every great man is a great woman. In Charlie's case, his wife Rena Tyler is alongside or ahead of him.
"She does a huge amount to make things happen," Di said. "It's important to remember a community is made up of family."
Collis agreed Rena had been a rock for Charlie and the family.
"You make sacrifices for Charlie to work in this community," she said.
In an emotional moment, Charlie admitted he wouldn't be where he was today without Rena.
"I'm sure as hell wouldn't be here with you and the family sacrifices," he said.
"We've worked together to achieve things. I've also worked with district council staff for a long time. They are awesome people, but you don't win them all."
But Charlie admitted, he's definitely human.
"I've done some stupid things in my time," he said.
"Like the time I was bringing the cows across the river and lost the brakes on the tractor. I shunted the back of the cowshed out and 80 jars of mum's preserves were history."