Former Rotorua tourism leader Don Gunn has died at the age of 62 after battling cancer for five years. His wife of nearly 36 years and others who adored Don talk to journalist Kelly Makiha.
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He was kind, positive, supportive, loving and giving.
He was Don Gunn - one of the nicest guys you'd ever meet.
The Rotorua tourism and community legend has lost his battle with prostate cancer, dying on Monday at the age of 62.
Together with wife of nearly 36 years, Sue, they were a mighty team and the city of Rotorua became their home when Gunn was appointed Destination Rotorua Tourism Marketing manager in 2003.
He led the tourism team until 2011 before buying his own Rotorua tourism businesses and later becoming manager of Eves Realty.
Along the way he was an active member of Rotorua Rotary Sunrise where he held senior positions, helped raise thousands for different causes and was a recipient of the prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship.
Sue said Don was diagnosed in mid-2015 but despite having brachytherapy, chemotherapy and radiation cancer spread to his bones.
He was taking funded drugs to try and keep cancer at bay but eventually, the cancer took over.
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"He made a decision early on he didn't want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (on different unfunded drugs) to prolong his life for just a few months and instead wanted the money there for the kids and the family. He wanted to make sure the family was well looked after and cared for."
Sue said they "had the bucket list out" and had spent the last few years spending quality time with family and going on trips overseas and back to his hometown of Christchurch.
Sue, who works as the volunteer support services manager for Hospice, said Don also spent the last few months writing a biography. The family now has a 42-page book called A great life and fun times as told in his own words and compiled by Hospice volunteer biographer Alexandra Madden.
He presented the book to his children and other family members at Christmas.
Sue said her beloved husband was ready to go.
"He wasn't afraid of dying ... I could see a sense of calm serenity came over him. He was leaving having accomplished everything with the family. He felt free to go."
Daughter Rosanna said her father was more than just her dad. He was adored by her and sister Evie's friends and often became more of a dad to them than their fathers.
"He was patient, a good listener and he knew how to deal with things calmly. He was genuinely caring and was interested."
Canopy Tours managing director James Fitzgerald said Don was his first boss and went on to become his close friend and fellow Rotary member.
He was the first person outside of his family he ran the idea of Canopy Tours past and Don's response was "great, get on with it".
"He was super nice, super supportive of everyone and positive about everything. He is just a legend and has done so much for Rotorua especially in the last few years and with Sue together, what a team."
Rotorua Rotary Sunrise president Heinz Fett said Don epitomised what a Rotarian should be.
"He had a calm and friendly demeanour and was never negative about anything to anyone."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick described Don as a "beautiful man" who held his tourism role while she was the city's MP.
"He showed a passion for our place and people and wherever he went Sue was beside him with her talents and support. They are a power couple who value inclusion and community involvement at a selfless service level. He showed great energy and vibrancy in the way he lived his life."
Ruth Crampton, the former assistant general manager at Destination Rotorua Tourism Marketing, said Gunn offered her the Rotorua job while working for Qantas in Auckland.
"I knew him previously and I already established he was a really honest and ethical person."
Seven months after moving to Rotorua, Crampton met her late husband and went on to have her daughter.
"I have a lot to thank him for.
"We were each other's go-tos and he backed me all the way. We were a great team ... He instilled in us that we had to do the best for the destination and not individual operators."
A celebration of Don's life will be held in the Distinction Rotorua Hotel on February 12 at 1.30pm. Those attending are asked to dress bright and colourfully.
* Born and raised in Christchurch, died in Rotorua at 62
* Married to Sue for 36 years next week
* Father of Evie and Rosanna
* Destination Rotorua Tourism Marketing general manager 2003-2011
* Bought Rotorua Travel and renamed it Rotorua Super Passes in 2011
* Became qualified in real estate and became Eves Realty manager in 2016-2019
* Rotarian since 2007 and member of the Rotorua Rotary Sunrise Club
* Prestigious Rotary Paul Harris Fellowship award recipient in 2018
* Made life member of Rotorua Rotary Sunrise in November 2019