Loving grandparents look on the bright side as misfortune strikes again and again….and again.

Sometimes life seems so unfair. Friends of Taupo grandparents Sue and Wayne Porteous would be the first to agree.

For 50 years Sue and Wayne have been pillars in their community. Always willing to devote huge chunks of their time to voluntary community service, the couple are known around town as kind and selfless givers.

Yet about three years ago misfortune and setback began to stalk them.

The first shock came when Wayne was diagnosed with cancer. "It was a blow alright," says Sue. Although the 73-year-old is now in remission, their troubles didn't end there.

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In February last year their home was destroyed by fire; two weeks later Sue's 91-year-old mother who was living with them died, probably Sue thinks, from the shock; then the company re-building their ruined house went into liquidation putting the project back months.

Forced to dip into their savings to pay for unplanned costs associated with the re-build, the couple were also confronted with a major landscaping job to restore their garden and driveway, both of which were badly damaged by the demolition and construction work.
Unable to afford to pay someone else to do this, Wayne had no option but to get stuck in to the task himself.

And, incredibly, through all of this Sue and Wayne carried on as fulltime 'parents' raising two of their four grandchildren, a commitment they have shouldered for 12 years.

But at last Sue (72) and Wayne have some good news. Last month moving into their new home, they were this week named as ASB Good as Gold recipients, the bank giving them $10,000 to help cover the costs of the landscaping.

ASB Bays/Lower North Island regional manager Barry Coffey says the award couldn't have gone to a more deserving couple.

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"Wayne and Sue's ability to see the silver lining in every cloud is remarkable, especially considering the events that have befallen them in recent years," he says. "They haven't let these get them down and have still managed to help others in their community; we hope the ASB Good as Gold award will go a little way towards making their rebuilt house feel like a home."

"We are over the moon (with the award)," says Sue. "It's been an incredibly tough time but you have to keep going. If you don't you'll crumble; with two grandchildren to look after we knew we had to get up each morning and carry on.

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"Hey, we're not that badly off, nice new house and many people out there more deserving."

This attitude explains a lot about why they are so highly regarded in Taupo. Wayne, a retired potter who still works as a website editor and Sue (she teaches yoga and ran a shop selling Wayne's pottery), have a long list of community work behind them.

It includes service with the local Lions, community patrol, Youthline, hospice, and Soroptimist Club (a women's service group). Wayne has also voluntarily driven people who don't have a car to hospital and medical appointments and, for many years, has helped with gardening at Taupo's Waipahihi Botanical Gardens.

Although pleased with their new home, Sue still shudders when she thinks about their lucky escape from the blaze that destroyed their old house, a place they lived in for 49 years: "It was about 2am when I woke to see flames outside the window and smoke everywhere," she recalls.

Managing to get themselves and the grandchildren out (and their pet dog and cat), Sue realised her elderly mother was trapped behind locked doors in her downstairs flat: "I rushed to get her out but couldn't unlock the door."

Desperate, she dashed back to her bedroom to get the key to the flat but was beaten back by thick smoke. Luckily at that moment a passing truck driver on his way to work noticed the flames and rushed to the rescue.

Kicking the door in, he managed to carry Sue's mother out to safety as fire fighters arrived to douse the blaze. But, two weeks later, her mother died. "I think it was the terrible shock she suffered," says Sue.

Wayne says the fire started in a storage shed next to the house and although it has never been established, he thinks it was probably caused by faulty wiring. Most of the house was unlivable after the fire and what had not been burned was so waterlogged they decided to demolish it entirely and re-build.

Spending the first night after the fire at Sue's sister's home, they lived for the next 18 months in a cottage in Taupo managing to squeeze themselves, the grandchildren and the cat and dog into a relatively small area.

Sue and Wayne were nominated for the ASB award by a long-time friend Lorna Chinn. "I've known Sue for many years and have worked with Wayne at the botanical gardens," she says. "They are wonderful salt-of-the-earth people who like to help others but have had a run of bad luck.

"They are the most kind people and what they have been through is just so unfair."