A Whangārei man, who died shortly after being found by rescuers following a four-day search, has been remembered by close friends as a "jovial bloke" ready to help anyone.
Brian Arthur Bench was found a day after his 73rd birthday in dense bush just off the Ross Track at Mt Parihaka - about 50m from the road - at 2.30pm on Sunday, July 11.
Bench, who had dementia, went missing from his home on Memorial Dr, near Riverside Dr in Parahaki, last Wednesday night.
On Sunday, searchers were walking in teams of six, side-by-side a metre apart, when they heard a noise nearby that led them to Bench – still alive despite days of cold and wet weather.
Tragically the father-of-two died as emergency crews treated him.
More than 100 people joined the Northland's Land Search and Rescue team, police LandSAR, and Coastguard to search on Saturday with police blown away by the "overwhelming turnout".
Those closest to "Benchy" weren't surprised their welcoming friend - best known for his Brian Bench Car Audio business, installing car stereos and car alarms - had made an impression on so many people.
The Advocate spoke to Ken, from Waipū, who said Benchy had been a big part of his life ever since the pair had become good mates 55 years ago.
"He lived a pretty colourful life – a very full life... he had eight to 10 really good mates. You don't get eight to 10 really good mates unless you're a pretty great bloke."
Ken said Benchy had spent his life surrounded by the "best family" – as the middle child of three brothers, husband, and loving father.
If family was his first love, sport was definitely his second as Ken described his friend as an "all-round sportsman".
"Sport was a big part of his life. Tennis, rugby, and golf were the top three main ones."
Bench spent around 20 years "wearing opponents out" on the courts at the Kamo Tennis Club and for Northland, club stalwart Roger "Rocket" Turner said.
"He was a gentleman - hard case and good fun. Without his sponsorship our club would've been toast."
Turner said Bench, dubbed "Benchman" in the tennis fraternity, made a big contribution to interclub tennis and was one of the first people to sign up to the Kamo Cobras team.
Bench also donned the mantle of a Waiotira Golf Club member for 25 years.
Ken said his good mate's roots in rugby started in Mangakahia and spread into Waipū and Hora Hora.
"But in the end he was a Kamo man through and through."
Kamo Rugby Club stalwart Jock Finlayson and Bench bonded over their everlasting love of the game and of the club.
"He was always ready to help whoever and wherever it was needed."
Bench was a "great supporter" of his local club and showed it as a main sponsor through his business.
Finlayson said the name of Bench's favourite Whangārei pub, The Jovial Judge, couldn't be more fitting his rugby mate was "always jovial".
"If you ever saw him, he always had a smile and would make an effort to talk to you. He always had that friendly, welcoming personality. He also had a great compassionate side to him."
Finlayson said Bench once created a double-seater mobility scooter for his parents that could accommodate the couple together.
"Although I don't think he thought through the side his mother was on and, well, tree branches... but that was Benchy, he went to all that effort for them."
Sarah Wells, a friend of Bench and his wife's for close to 17 years, started a Givealittle page to support the family of their "much-loved friend/father/partner and amazing, community, sound, savvy friend".
"We all want to help but there is not much we can do currently. However, we can ease the financial burden for his partner Noy and Brian's children who will now need to pay for a funeral and have time off work while they process their grief and support each other through this time."