His warm-hearted, gracious, intelligent nature were just some of the many qualities that drew people of all walks of life to Daniel Anthony O'Leary.

Known simply as Dan by family and friend alike, the affable retired Whanganui farmer sadly passed away on the morning of February 15 after being admitted to Whanganui Hospital on February 7.

Dan was an unflappable man rarely, if ever, driven to overt bouts of emotion. He was a well-read, articulate man with considered opinions on any manner of subjects, although never delivered in an intimidating way to offend or belittle the opinions or beliefs of others.

In an exquisitely-crafted eulogy prepared by his sisters and brothers, and delivered by nephews Eamon Sweeney and Andre Gini at Dan's service at St Mary's Catholic Church in Whanganui on February 19, some of the many facets of the man were shared with the large congregation.


Dan was born in Waverley on December 2, 1946, the fourth child of seven of Dan and Maureen O'Leary.

They were sheep farmers in the Kohi district. He was educated at Waverley Convent School and then boarded at St Patrick's College Silverstream in the Hutt Valley. In his senior year, upper sixth as it was called, he was a prefect.

It was during these formative years that Dan developed his devout reverence for religion, particularly Catholicism.

Dan applied to enter the Marist Seminary to train as a priest in his lower sixth year but was not immediately accepted; he had to complete a fifth year at school to attain the acceptable age.

He had been accelerated a year ahead at primary school and so was younger than his peers, meaning his final day at Silverstream was also his 17th birthday.

From here he entered the seminary and spent the next five years at Greenmeadows Seminary, Hawkes Bay.

There his tertiary studies included philosophy, bible studies, theology, church history and he learned the ways of prayer.

By all accounts he enjoyed his time, his fellow students and the studies. His contemporaries enjoyed his friendliness, humour and talents.


Ultimately Dan decided that life as a priest was not his calling. He returned home to Whanganui, aged 23.

His older brother Con had died tragically some months earlier. Dan immediately involved himself in the family farming operations, which by now had expanded to include a block at Nukumaru.

A year later Dan bought his first house and farm with family support. This property was close to Whanganui on No 3 Line in the Okoia Valley.

The farm was a town supply dairy farm – all year round twice a day milking to supply fresh milk to the city.

The dairy farm had a six bail walk through cow shed which had seen better days. Dan very quickly decided to replace the shed and install state of the art technology for that time - a rotary shed – one of the very first in the Whanganui district.

Seven years later he gave his younger brother Patrick a leg up onto his first farm, which was next door.

The pair then formed a successful farming partnership, mainly involving dairy and beef farming.

The partnership developed such that Patrick was the stockman, doing the buying and selling of cattle, whilst Dan looked after the milking, machinery, development, repairs and maintenance.

There were a few seasons when Dan, Pat and their Fordell cousins Tim and Stephen, teamed up as silage making contractors.

In their farming partnership Dan and Pat bought other properties near Kaitoke as run offs for the herd and grazing cattle for the beef market.

They set up a share milker on the Okoia block and lived at various stages at one of their other farms.

Some years later when well established they ended the farming partnership and began farming independently.

Dan's involvement in farming did not stop at the farm gate. Very soon the co-operative that owned the town milk supply appointed him to the board of directors. He became a member of the Wanganui Veterinary Club.

Where he also joined the board.

In the 1970's he involved himself in supporting those wanting to uphold the right to life. In doing so he joined the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child and for a time was the president of the Wanganui Branch.

Then there was a committee he was asked to join which organised an O'Leary family reunion.

The organising committee, with Dan as chairman, arranged a very successful event, bringing together between 700 and 800 people, young and old, here in Wanganui in 1988.

Also during his farming career Dan was the spokesperson for concerned citizens who opposed a rubbish dump being relocated to a site adjacent to Wanganui East.

The group was successful in overturning the proposal.

The groups' legal advisor was so impressed with Dan's leadership, they even suggested he consider running for public office.

Over the years a boyhood injury from falling off a pony began to cause Dan some discomfort, to the extent that he required hip surgery.

Once he decided it was time to have his hip fixed Dan retired from farming and sold up in 2003 at the age of 56.

Those years were not all work and no play. Dan was a very sociable character with an outstanding tenor voice,

In his twenties Dan joined the Marist rugby club where he played rugby for 15 years and stopped playing when he broke his leg in a game aged 37.

He continued his involvement at Marist club with committee work, was club president for a time, and granted the honour of life membership.

Dan's interest in thoroughbred racing is well known.

Dan either had good luck or a keen eye for quality because not only did he back a lot of winners, but he was involved with some very useful horses.

One highlight was the success of Balmuse, winner of the Kelt Capital Stakes in Hastings when it was first run for $1 million.

Balmuse beat a horse called Starcraft who had crossed the Tasman in attempt to steal our riches. Starcraft was named World Miler of the Year in Europe the very next season.

Balmuse was Dan's biggest stakes earning galloper amassing $1,091,000 during his career.

More recently, Overtheriver has performed remarkably well clocking up 22 wins, including some very recent ones.

In fact, tomorrow he attempts to win his 23rd race and his eighth country cup when he lines up in the Affco NZ Ltd Wairoa Cup.

For many years, Dan was on the committee of the Wanganui Jockey Club and served a term as president.

Dan not only enjoyed his involvement in administration aspects of the club; he also volunteered his time with track maintenance.

For his services to the Jockey club, Dan was honoured with life membership.

Dan O'Leary was a man of substance, a man who quietly commanded respect through his very nature and a man who will be sadly missed by many.