Dr Kem Keene, who died on July 15, was well-known both as a local Pahiatua veterinarian and in the horse racing industry - breeding and racing horses. He was 89.
Kem was born on October 10, 1930, in Wellington. His education began at Karori Primary School, often riding to school on a pony with his sister Janice. His love for animals was great, he nursed sick ones and bred chickens, rabbits and also picked up outcasts and strays. His Shetland ponies used to get him into trouble when escaping and getting into gardens.
"Dad's family originally came from Te Paki Station on 90 Mile Beach in Northland," said daughter Carron Perry. "The family would pack up the caravan and travel north from Wellington for their holidays.
"He then attended Wellington College, obtaining a scholarship to Sydney University to study Veterinary Medicine. He travelled to Sydney on a boat at the beginning but managed to return on a float plane five years later.
"Because Dad's scholarship only paid for his education, there was very little money for board and keep. He did lots of washing dishes jobs to get money for food and his fellow students did get meat sometimes from someone - he later found out it was horsemeat.
"Living above stables in the loft he started to follow the horses a bit. He studied their form and then would catch the train out to Randwick.
"He would put some money on one race he'd picked, if it came in, he would have his second pick. But if it didn't make a collect he would go back to the train and wait for it to go back that night as he just couldn't afford to lose, and there were times he sat in the parked train all day waiting till it returned back to town.
"After returning home in 1953 for the final part of his bachelor of veterinary science degree (having to do a year of practical vet practice) he was posted at Urenui in Taranaki.
"When he arrived, the previous vet had just left so he was handed a set of keys for a car and maps for his first job (dad hadn't driven a car let alone possess a drivers licence but he wasn't going to tell them that). When he managed to get to the 'call' smoke was emanating from the car as he'd driven the whole way with the hand brake hard on.
"From Urenui to Waipukurau in the Hawke's Bay was the next Vet Club placement with vets Russell Dreadon and Dr Quinliven.
"And this is where dad met mum. Kay wanted her horse drenched, unfortunately the horse was a bit unruly and drench got all over mum's brand-new jodhpurs she had bought specially to meet the new vet. Dad offered to get them dry cleaned and a romance blossomed from there," Carron said.
"Married on October 22, 1955, two years and one month later I arrived on November 22, followed by Roger two years and [one month after that],December 22. Dad said he had it all planned to remember the important dates in his life.
"He bought a racehorse, Polo Star, which he trained and rode gallops on at the Waipukurau track but had little success," said Carron.
"He wasn't a practical builder but nevertheless built a dog kennel attached to the outside laundry wall for our corgi, Cindy. There was a fire in the laundry one day and Cindy wouldn't come out of the kennel so he wrenched it off the wall and carried dog and kennel to safety.
"Next day it took four men to pick up the kennel to move it. Amazing what adrenalin can do.
"Dad and mum then moved to Pahiatua to start up a practice with Ran Jacob, trading as Jacob & Keene. Dad treated large and small animals at the clinic where he taught me how to hold animals during surgery.
"Dad was involved with the rugby club at Pahiatua and was instrumental in purchasing the town library for $1 at the eleventh hour to be transported to the Halls Rd sportsgrounds.
"Dad spent time on the committee of the Pahiatua Golf Club, during which time the present-day course at Mangatainoka was purchased. He was the first one to gain a hole- in-one on the new course a Par 3 on Blue Gums.
"Dad played tennis at the Mangamutu club and played a good game too. There were many parties at 160 Main St following sports events.
"But horses were in dad's blood and it was a passion, not a job, to make horses well. He would fight to save them.
"Many a night Roger or I would go out with him on late night calls and help. There was a night when some ponies got hit by a train, one of which he managed to save and the scar went from hip to hock, hundreds of stitches inside and out taking hours and many days to get it right.
"Dad followed our involvement in sports, my athletics, Roger's rugby and our equestrian endeavours. He was our team vet for the four years I represented Wairarapa Hutt Valley in Pony Club Championships around the country.
"Dad's first foray into thoroughbred breeding began with the purchase of brood mares, Bezequec and Tauringa.
"The first foals born were a filly and a colt. The filly was their first race horse, Royal Marriage, and the colt was High Sail, who was sold and went on to run in the Melbourne Cup. Dad's dream of owning a runner in Melbourne never eventuated
"Dad formed a syndicate and imported a stallion from England, Holy Smoke 11, and stood him at Kimbolton.
"Dad and mum bought an 18ha property on the outskirts of Pahiatua to further their breeding operation, Keeneland Stud, breeding and selling at yearling sales around the country and at the Gold Coast in Queensland.
"I was involved with preparing these yearlings till I got married," Carron said.
"Dad was with mum in Tokyo for the Japan Cup (after winning the trip through the Friday Flash) when Bonecrusher took ill. Dad saved Bonecrusher's life through his expertise in reading and analysing bloods tests.
"He was also called in to look at Mandela, who had foot problems, and was able to diagnose that the horse had selenium poisoning. Mandela eventually returned to racing and won the Geelong Cup and ran in the Melbourne Cup.
"In the early days dad worked closely with Brian Goulden of Massey University developing the use of cardiographs and most of the breeders and trainers know the benefits of these when buying horses at sales.
"Dad had a very keen interest in blood testing and it has been said that he was one of the most respected and one of the best in the business of assessing blood tests.
"Syd Brown used to say that dad had the ability to select a good horse from a bad one.
"Dad went on to be a regular at most sales and race meetings around the country, working for many successful trainers in his lifetime in New Zealand and Australia.
"All up, Kem had won in excess of 100 races," said Carron.
Dr Kemball Bernard Roderick Keene is survived by his daughter Carron and his son Roger and their families.