Family man, tourism leader and Rotarian extraordinaire Don Gunn has been farewelled at his funeral by hundreds who loved him. Journalist Kelly Makiha reports.
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A few months before he died, Don Gunn fixed his blue eyes on his brother Ross and said "Ross, I am happy. I'm sad I'm not going to be here for some things moving forward, but you know what? I've had a bloody good life".
Hundreds packed a conference room at the Distinction Hotel in Rotorua yesterday to "celebrate a bloody good life of a good bugger".
Don died on February 2 after a battle with cancer.
Don was a treasured husband, father, valued Rotarian and respected tourism leader.
Delivering the eulogy for his brother, Ross Gunn said if anyone had the right to be angry, it was Don given his cancer diagnosis in 2015.
He said his brother had a "truly inspirational" approach to his situation.
"He was the epitome of the glass is half full."
Ross took the crowd who gathered at the funeral, who were requested to dress in colourful clothing, on a journey of Don's life, including his days growing up in Christchurch, antics with his siblings and outlining his earlier sporting successes in athletics, swimming and rugby.
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Being a "staunch red and black supporter" his Canterbury rugby allegiances shone through with his bright red coffin with black handles.
There were many stories about fun antics, many over a few drinks, and examples of heroism including putting his swimming skills to good use saving the life of an Irishman overseas who had got into trouble in the water.
Ross said Rotorua had embraced Don and his wife, Sue, during their 17 years in Rotorua.
"They have rolled their sleeves up and got stuck into contributing to the local community."
When talking about the couple, he said, "Sue was the yin to Don's yang".
"Sue has enormous drive and energy and this has provided at times some enormous structure and direction for Don's more laid-back and relaxed approach," Ross said to giggles among the crowd.
Ross said his brother should fear not, his legacy would live on.
"You have done a lot, you have lived a lot, you have loved a lot, you have been loved a lot, you have left footsteps on many hearts and souls."
Don's daughters Evie Parker and Rosanna Gunn talked about their "cool dad" who always put them first.
Evie said one of her best memories was seeing his proud face looking at her before he walked her down the aisle on her wedding day.
"Dad you were everything I needed you to be."
Rosanna said despite testing his patience, he would never yell and was always calm but stern.
"I will re-tell memories of you for the rest of my life."
Heinz Fett spoke about his enormous commitment to Rotary Rotorua Sunrise, describing him as a "Rotarian extraordinaire" who went on to be awarded the prestigious Rotary Paul Harris Fellowship award in 2018.
Fellow Inbound Tour Operators Council of New Zealand leader Warren Harford, who was the managing director of the Agrodome, told stories from Don's tourism days, thanking him for his contribution to tourism and other people's lives.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said Don's leadership as Destination Rotorua tourism marketing general manager was instrumental in turning around Rotorua as it had become a "tired destination" in the early 2000s.
"He made this destination a must-do."
She said his and Sue's understanding of multiculturalism and inclusiveness shone through as they played host to many overseas Rotary students in their home, including showing incredible love and leadership during the death in a car crash of a Chinese student in their care, Sunny Hu, in December 2017.
Celebrant and friend Susan Brown summed up feelings towards Don when she said intense grief only existed when there had been intense love.
"He has loved well and he has been well-loved."