Whanganui man Ian Bell will be remembered for his faithful work in the community and for his love and knowledge of the botanical world, writes Laurel Stowell.
Behind Ian Bell were 60 years of happy marriage, his plant breeding achievements, 26 years of accountancy at Cavalier Spinners, and a whole lot of the behind-the-scenes service that underpins community groups.
Ian died in Whanganui Hospital on May 5 from a heart condition. He was 86 and still contributing to the Whanganui Summer Programme and Whanganui Museum Botanical Group.
His sons David and Peter remember Ian as stubborn, determined and astute, but also kind- hearted.
"He had a very strong work ethic and an amazing amount of integrity and knowledge as well," Peter said.
Ian's parents were Doreen (Nin) Bell, nee Sharpe, and Archibald Bell. He had two sisters and a brother. He was born in Napier but the family soon moved to a house in Caius Ave, Whanganui.
Ian went to Gonville School and then Wanganui Technical College, where he captained the rugby first XV, swam and took up rowing as a single sculler.
After school he moved to Rotorua, where he studied accounting and worked for the TAB.
He met Jocelyn Stevens, aged just 16, at a Union Boat Club dance. They married in 1957, at St Paul's Presbyterian Church in Whanganui.
The two moved to Wellington, where Ian finished his accountancy exams and worked for a meat company, and their first child was born. They moved to Invercargill, where Ian worked for a freezing works and their second son was born.
Back in Whanganui, Jocelyn's parents Wallace (Wally) and Emily (Jean) Stevens owned the Stevens Brothers nursery and cut-flower business. It occupied 6ha at the top of Bastia Hill.
It specialised in irises, had a big collection of Australian and South African plants, and sold cut flowers wholesale to New Zealand cities.
In 1961 Ian and Jocelyn moved back to Whanganui to be part of it - Ian to take care of accounts and Jocelyn to propagate plants.
Ian was a quick learner. Coached by Jocelyn and her mother he tried hybridising leucadendrons and came up with the popular hybrid Safari Sunset. He and Jocelyn had a house built for them in Iris Place, on the family land.
Both had wide knowledge of exotic plants, and were keen members of the Whanganui Museum Botanical Group.
After Wally died in 1974, they moved into the house on the nursery and continued the plant business. When nursery returns dropped, Ian got another accounting job with Wanganui Engineering, then another at Cavalier Spinners.
He was at Cavalier Spinners until he retired, aged 72. During this time Jocelyn developed Parkinson's disease. She eventually died in 2017, after Ian had nursed her for 18 years.
"They were in love right to the end," David said.
At the same time he held roles with the botanical group, Forest & Bird, the Whanganui Regional Museum board, the Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board, the Parkinson's Society, the New Zealand Iris Society, the Bushy Park Trust and the Whanganui Summer Programme.
"He was what you might call dedicated."
Earlier in his life he had thrown himself into his children's organisations with equal vigour - the boards of the Whanganui East School and Wanganui Boy's College and various scouting groups.
Ian is survived by his two sons, four grandchildren and four step-grandchildren, also five great-grandchildren and five step-great-grandchildren.