It's been 64 days since New Zealand lost a hero but his legacy lives on.

Today, Blair Vining's commitment to dramatically improving New Zealand's health system and ultimately saving hundreds of cancer sufferers each year is being acknowledged.

Readers have voted the Southland father the winner of Our Heroes 2019, the Herald's annual recognition of our most inspiring and deserving achievers.

The other candidates were MP Hamish Walker, who talked a man out of jumping to his death; anti-suicide documentary maker Jazz Thornton; adman Josh Thompson, who took a clown to his redundancy interview; Ihumātao protest leader Pania Newton; 10-year-old Veyda-Blu Toko-Gaylor, who took the car's wheel to save her father's life; the Auckland Zoo kākāpō rescue team; Peter Simpson, whose quick reactions helped police catch an alleged killer; immunisation advocate Dr Nikki Turner and honorary Kiwi Will "Egg Boy" Connolly.

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Herald editors have also made their choice for Our Heroes 2019.

Blair's wife, Melissa, told the Herald he would be looking down laughing because he didn't consider himself a hero.

"He would be saying: 'I'm just an ordinary guy doing what anyone would do.

"But it's really lovely that so many people still have him in their thoughts and we really appreciate all the kind messages people have sent in support," Melissa said.

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She said she was looking forward to going to the cemetery with her daughters, Della-May and Lilly, to show Blair his awards.

"I've always thought Blair was capable of achieving great things. His commitment to others and selflessness are traits that he demonstrates as a father, husband and friend.

"I didn't ever imagine him to be getting involved in politics of any type or rallying the country to demand better health care but I'm not surprised he would see a problem and do what he could to make it better."

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Blair and Melissa take the stage to share pieces of their story in front of hundreds. Photo / Layton Findlater
Blair and Melissa take the stage to share pieces of their story in front of hundreds. Photo / Layton Findlater

It takes an extraordinary person to be told they're dying of cancer and then spend every living moment left benefiting the lives of those around them - but that was Blair Vining.

The 38-year-old father-of-two was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in October last year and was initially given three months to live.

He was then told to wait eight weeks for an "urgent appointment" with an oncologist.

Melissa refused to let her husband die waiting and called every person she could think of until she got hold of the medical director of New Zealand's Cancer Society and top oncologist Chris Jackson.

As a result, Blair was able to start chemotherapy right away and was put on the best treatment possible - giving him enough time to renew his wedding vows and savour the time he had left with his two teenage daughters.

Blair and Melissa's powerful bond has captured thousands of people across the nation. Photo / Layton Findlater
Blair and Melissa's powerful bond has captured thousands of people across the nation. Photo / Layton Findlater

But there was one itch the 38-year-old couldn't let go - a "broken health system".

"If I had waited that eight weeks, then I'd likely already be dead," Blair told the Herald back in January.

Instead of breaking down, Blair stood up to fight with his family and friends backing him every step of the way.

He launched New Zealand's biggest-ever cancer petition, gaining 150,000 signatures, calling on the Government to set up a cancer agency to end "postcode lottery" care, which varied wildly across the country.

Family friend Kylie Gordon-Watkins presents stacks of signatures for the petition on stage with Blair's daughters, Lilly and Della-May. Photo / Layton Findlater
Family friend Kylie Gordon-Watkins presents stacks of signatures for the petition on stage with Blair's daughters, Lilly and Della-May. Photo / Layton Findlater

Blair lived to see his final wish come to fruition when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark announced the establishment of a national cancer agency on September 1.

Blair died on October 10.

He is remembered by his family as "positive, never feeling sorry for himself and always thinking of others".

Mils Muliaina and Corey Flynn were two of 650 people gathered at Blair's final farewell. Photo / Layton Findlater
Mils Muliaina and Corey Flynn were two of 650 people gathered at Blair's final farewell. Photo / Layton Findlater