Well-known Levin busker Rex Warbrick died yesterday at home surrounded by close family. He was 63.
The man who went by the name of Raven did his best to spread good vibes through friendly comments to passersby, in between playing his own brand of blues music.
Warbrick took to busking as a means of survival and a way of contributing to his family, children and grandchildren, as his life-long struggle with mental health prevented him from getting a job.
He could be found most days singing his own brand of light, bluesy music and lyrics straight from his heart, an occupation that he took seriously, imparting joy and encouragement at every opportunity.
"You're looking good, my man. Stay strong, people are counting on you," he might say.
Strong-boned and standing 1.8m tall, his handsome frame and long hair could also be misread as intimidating, but nothing was further from the truth.
Inside, he was a big softie. Tough times had made him hard-hearted, but he said it was about reconnecting with the side of himself he was born with - his gentle side.
Warbrick's partner of the last 19 years, Patricia Beamsley, said he was diagnosed with Stage Four lung cancer 13 months ago. He was given just months to live by doctors.
The couple had made the tough decision together that he should forego cancer treatment so that he might enjoy a better quality of life with the time he had remaining.
Beamsley said although Warbrick was ill he maintained a good quality of life up right up until his final days. He was out busking a week before the most recent lockdown, albeit with the help of a mobility scooter.
"He just wanted to keep singing," she said.
Warbrick had a tough upbringing and had battled mental illness since he was a young man. When he was 20 years old he suffered a mental health breakdown, an event that changed the course of his life.
He would spend the next 20 years in and out of mental institutions, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Labels like that can be heavy to carry around and are easy to lick and stick. For Warbrick, the years he spent in mental health units like Lake Alice and Manawaroa were hell, and felt more like containment than rehabilitation.
Heavily medicated, he felt like they were lost years. He spent years trying to piece his life together and make sense of what happened.
He credited meeting Patricia with turning his life around 20 years ago. He said it was simple. He had found love.
"Once upon a time I was an angry man ... she took away my pain and anger," he had said.
"Through loving her I was able to let go of my pain, anger and resentment ... her love has been better than any treatment.
"Right from the start I said 'I love ya', and she loved me unconditionally. I believed in her and she set me free in so many ways.
"When I was angry, she would say 'just forgive them'. She clothed me, fed me and never judged me. She took on an unwell man and stuck by me."
"When love comes through the door, it's Pat that comes through the door. I'm just so proud to do the housework, to do the dishes, although I can't stand up for too long now," he had said.
Warbrick always said he loved Levin and the people in it, and did his best to shrug off any mean-spirited comments with the knowledge that some people didn't understand him or his journey, and had no understanding of mental illness.
"I treat everyone equally. Do you understand? I have love and respect for all people. All people," he had said.
"If you look into love you find freedom, in your life and in your heart..."
"Busking is a means of communication. I always try to lift people up ... 'you're looking good today brother' or 'kia kaha'," he had said.
"I'm thankful for every day and every dollar."
Meanwhile, a social media post from a close family members informing of his passing had received more than 700 messages of sympathy within a day.