By Dave Murdoch
Suresh Patel QSM is the first person from Tararua to be inducted into the Manawatū Legends of Sport.
The induction, which was a complete surprise to Patel, was made last Friday night at the Downer Tararua Sports Awards.
The Manawatu Legends of Sport was established in 2007 to acknowledge and honour the region's sporting achievers and those who have dedicated years of service to sport.
It recognises sportspeople who have not only achieved at the highest level of their code but have each contributed back into regional sport.
Suresh becomes the 27th person to be awarded this honour, joining icons such as Ian Ferguson, Chris Amon, Phil Skoglund and Dr Farah Palmer.
Trevor Shailer CEO of Sport Manawatu presented the award to an astonished Suresh Patel.
"Suresh received his Queen's Service Medal in 2020. He received notice of his QSM during Level 4 lockdown, but the notification went unnoticed for a while, due to getting the Shire's Fruit and Vege Market operating during lockdown," Shailer said.
"Tonight's induction is due to Patel's passion for sport, which has seen him play cricket, hockey and rugby. When his playing career ended, he turned to coaching hockey and cricket and then to administration."
Patel was the chairman of Dannevirke Cricket Association from 2002 to 2010 and president of the Central Districts Indian Sports for 14 years from 1996 to 2010. He has been a delegate and selector with the New Zealand Indian Sports Association for a number of years and has helped to organise various New Zealand Indian Sports tournaments.
He has been a coach, referee, and a member of different sports clubs and teams.
Patel was made an Honoured Member of the New Zealand Indian Sports Association in 2012, and life member of the Central Districts Indian Sports Club in 2016 and the Dannevirke Chamber of Commerce in 2017."
"Suresh was Dannevirke Chamber of Commerce chairman between 2008 and 2012 helping to prevent it from going into recession and then driving the growth of the association over the past 13 years.
"During his time as chairman from 2013 to 2015 Patel revitalised the Dannevirke Christmas parade, which has grown over the past five years under his leadership.
"Suresh has been fortunate to be able to do the work he has done because of the incredible support from Nayna, Peter and the extended family who have always encouraged him. Suresh played sport all his life and he has really appreciated the people he's played with and against and he's made many lifetime friends."
In reply Suresh expressed his huge surprise – asking "why me?"
He picked up on Shailer's reference to his family saying he was hugely honoured and accepted on behalf of all the community, especially his family who had covered for him when called away on sporting related business.
He said he has made a huge number of friends through sport - just as many during his 60 years of sport as in 45 years in business.
He said he did not expect anything like this honour and would treasure it "for a long, long time".
Shailer said: "It is often those that don't expect an honour who deserve it most".