He was an "outside of the square" kind of man and responsible for Rotorua's fine art collection that is today of national significance.
Rotorua Museum's former director John Perry, a great artistic mind and collector, died peacefully on Sunday, at the age of 77.
The adored and quirky collector spent 20 years curating and directing the museum and amassed works for bargain prices that are still talked about today.
He came to the museum in 1978 when there was no fine art and immediately began to do what he did best - collecting.
The collection is now the envy of the country, in the monetary as well as historical sense.
Perry was constantly on the hunt for objects he deemed unusual, unexpected and extraordinary.
Former museum colleague Andrew Warner said Perry made many great discoveries.
"He took great pride in finding treasure in the discarded ephemera of our disposable society. One such find was an etching by Rembrandt, which he proudly told me he had acquired from a junk shop in Bulls for 10 cents."
He told the Rotorua Daily Post in an Our People article by Jill Nicholas in 2015 that answering to the "grey suit brigade" at the council in his museum-gallery days led to "copious tetchy clashes".
A standout was the time he convinced councillors to outlay $400 towards an $800 Ralph Hotere work. The Arts Council paid the other half.
"What I omitted to say was it was on corrugated iron. There were a lot of recriminations over that. I was accused of buying 24-carat rust - today it's worth $250,000," Perry told the Rotorua Daily Post in 2015.
Former mayor Grahame Hall described Perry as knowledgeable, dedicated and enthusiastic.
"His reports to council were always very full and interesting, and because of his enthusiasm it was always very hard for the chair of the meeting to keep to time.
"He had a great eye for paintings and I recall, on one of the occasions when John spoke to us about his early days of collecting art, he said he managed to buy a painting by an up-and-coming artist at a bargain price, which he kept for a number of years and eventually sold it for enough money to build his first house."
When Perry eventually moved from Rotorua, the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust knew he was a good bet and kept him on as arts adviser for its Heritage Collection.
"He played a very important role advising trustees on purchases and maintenance of the Heritage Collection. His energy, enthusiasm and professional knowledge always came through and he will be sadly missed in the art world."
Mayor Steve Chadwick said Perry was an "outside the square" director of the museum for about 10 years.
She said they shared a loved of fine art and a friendship as he trained with her brother, Dick Frizzell.
"He had amazing insight and ability to spot emerging talent, as well as nurturing a deep value of New Zealand artists.
"He frequented auction houses and bought an incredible body of significant work for the Rotorua Museum that has increased in value over the years."
Chadwick recalled his "care and manaakitanga" for visiting artists.
"We loved his art tours, which involved exploring significant rock art, visiting the hidden hot springs, and combing Motutara Pt."
Perry started the Friends of the Art Gallery and Chadwick was an active member alongside other city leaders Roger Brewster and Paul East.
"He treated supporters with respect and valued their contribution."
Chadwick said Perry had said his exhibition Feathers and Fibre, which celebrated historical and contemporary Māori weaving, was the most significant he curated.
"I would place his exhibition of geothermal inspired works as equally inspiring."
Chadwick said she loved his frequent visits to Rotorua, the last of which was to intervene to keep a controversial work of Theo Schoon in local ownership.
"In typical style he slept in his famous minivan outside our storage site until he could come in to see me."
Chadwick said he continued to watch the market closely and identified many works that, in his view, should belong in Rotorua's care.
"Sadly, since the earthquake closed the gallery in 2015, we have stopped buying those treasures on the open market. Thank you, John Perry, for your gift of talent to our place. We are so much the richer for your passion and prudence."
Former experienced museum guide and senior staff member Ann Somerville said Perry was one of the most influential people in her life.
She worked with him for five years and said they "had a ball".
"Exhibitions such as Elvis in Geyserland, Not Bad Eh, Birds of a Feather, Taking a Pew mined a vivid and often quirky seam of New Zealand objects and art. He was very, very funny and had a penchant for dressing interestingly.
"He was known and loved by many influential artists and we were privileged to meet them when they popped in to see John."
Warner, who worked with Perry alongside Somerville, described him as an "incredible mentor" and said his enthusiasm for everything art would be greatly missed.
"John could hold an object in his hand that looked insignificant to begin with, but after his telling the long and winding story of where it fitted into our world, you understood its power and beauty."
Moe mai rā e te Rangatira (rest in peace).
Perry had three sons and five grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on June 20 at 1pm at Webb's, 33a Normanby Rd, Auckland.