Robert (Bob) Cecil Hall 24.10.1942 – 21.10.2018
Born into a farming family in Okete, near Raglan, Bob Hall was used to rising at 5a.m. to feed the cows, and even in his seventies would often rise at the same hour to fulfil his busy schedule.
There was never just one project he was thinking about, be it his engineering business from which he was only semi-retired, his church work or his community work, not to mention his large family. Bob lived life to the full.
In the months before his untimely death, he was planning a family adventure climbing a mountain in South America.
The youngest of three, Bob attended Te Uku Primary School, Raglan High School, then Hamilton Boys High School, continuing on to Auckland University where he gained his engineering degree. It was at Ardmore where he met his first wife, Rosemary Wood, who was training to be a teacher.
Married in 1966, the couple lived at first in Te Kuiti. Sport was always part of Bob's busy life. In 1965 he played in the King Country team alongside Colin Meads. When he and Rosemary moved to Hawke's Bay, he played for Havelock North. A newspaper photo at the time displays his part in an upset victory over a rival team.
Rugby was left behind as family life took precedence. Bob and Rosemary had six children. His eldest son, David, described his father as 'selfless'. 'Dad always put others first. He genuinely wanted to help, not just for friends and the family he cherished, but anyone, and anywhere he thought he could make a difference.'
Tragedy struck the Hall family in 1990 when Rosemary died suddenly overnight. With three young children still at home, Bob needed help. This was partially provided by Rosemary's widowed sister, Margaret Burgess, who began visiting their Gilpin Road home twice a week. The help became permanent when Bob married Margaret in 1991 and they moved onto a lifestyle block in Te Aute Road, where Bob raised cows.
At that time, Bob was a director of the engineering firm Loughnan, Hall and Thompson, after an earlier stint at the Hastings Council. He often piloted a plane from Bridge Pa to carry out work in Gisborne. However, some years later he began his own firm, BHC Consulting, with three staff, working from home.
When Will Westrupp started Habitat for Humanity in Hawke's Bay, Bob was right there with gusto, participating with other volunteers in building the first Habitat home in Flaxmere. "A hand-up, not a handout' was the motto, where a needy family was given the opportunity to help build their own home.
When Will moved north, Bob took over the reins, with several more houses being built for needy families in the next few years.
Habitat for Humanity hit the headlines in 2011 when Bob initiated a build in Hawke's Bay Prison. He designed a house, then encouraged a number of willing inmates to take part in bringing it into being. When it was finally finished, national television showed the house being lifted by crane over the prison fence.
It was relocated in Hastings to the delight of the recipients, a couple with three young children.
Not satisfied with creating homes for needy families in Hawke's Bay, Bob took part in a build overseas. He and his three sons had decided to do a trek in the Himalayas.
But Bob didn't just take time off for a vacation, he volunteered the four of them for a Habitat build in Nepal. While there, he also visited and encouraged a small Christian orphanage with links to Arohanui Church in Havelock North where Bob and his family fellowshipped.
Recalling the trek up Mount Everest, David Hall says, 'Dad became an inspiration to us on that trip. He would have been 68 at the time and one knee had a swelling on it the size of a tennis ball (water on the knee). To make things worse, Dad's backpack was the one he'd used when travelling, with wheels and an extendable handle! Uncomfortable, ungainly and impractical, the pack's wheels dug into his back as he climbed.
Yet Dad still made it all the way to Everest Base Camp and down again, not even taking a day off to cope with the effects of altitude sickness, as we boys did.'
Habitat for Humanity (Central North Island) acknowledged Bob's work in 2015 when he was presented with an award 'for selfless volunteer service'.
At that time he was also involved with the Community Garden project at Anderson Park in Havelock North, for which he received a Community Service Award from Mayor Lawrence Yule in 2014.
Bob was not really a gardener, but he cared about people. He encouraged those in the area to plant their own plots of vegetables to feed their families.
He helped build up a Tool Box for use by the local community, also delivering the communal lawn mower and other implements as required. (On Sunday mornings Margaret would check to see her seat in the car was clear of tools before they drove to church.) As well as bringing practical help, Bob was interested in the local families, encouraging them, listening to their problems and often praying with them. He became known in the community as 'Bob from God'.
Bob and Margaret began a monthly Games Evening at Arohanui Church, initially for adults, but later mainly for children, concluding with fish and chips. Bob was also instrumental in setting up volleyball posts at the community garden. On Sunday afternoons, when Peak Vision Church would provide a free sausage sizzle, Bob would play volleyball and other games with the children who came along.
In September, only a few weeks before the heart attack that led to his untimely death, a photo of Bob digging was published in Hawke's Bay Today with an article about his work in the community garden. With hardly a grey hair, Bob looked much younger than his almost 76 years. He was always very fit and active, both he and Margaret playing tennis twice a week at the Havelock North Tennis Club, and having very competitive games of tenniquoits on the lawn when family visited at Christmas.
Not a man of words, Bob was a man of action, with a huge passion for caring for people, especially those who were struggling. This was inspired by his strong Christian faith that underpinned everything he did. During the teenage years of his three youngest children – and for some years afterwards – Bob led the Youth Group at Arohanui Church.
But that was only one of his many roles over the years. He was a real pillar of the church, involved in almost every area, both spiritual and practical. Bob had an unshakable faith in God's power to bring hope, healing and a new beginning for everyone, by reaching out to Jesus Christ.
Many were the tributes paid by family and friends alike at his funeral on October 27th, held at Peak Vision Church in Havelock North. The congregation of approximately 350 people were somewhat surprised when the pallbearers donned gumboots before processing out of the church and placing Bob's coffin on the trailer of a waiting tractor, complete with hay bales.
Bob Hall will be sorely missed by many. He is survived by his wife Margaret, sons David, Chris and Philip, daughters Suz, Lisa and Kimberlee, stepson John Burgess, stepdaughters Carolyn and Julie, 20 grandchildren and one great-grandson.