John Goodare is a funeral director at Cleveland Funeral Home. Prior to that he had a long career in retail, running Whanganui's Vodafone store for 17 years and working at Kmart and Noel Leeming. He is the new president of the Westmere Miniature Rifle Club, a member of the Whanganui Sailing Club, a "sporadic" golfer and a lifestyle farmer. Mike Tweed fired 10 questions at him.
What is your favourite thing to do in Whanganui?
That's an easy one - going sailing on the river. I've got a boat that I think about selling every year, but soon as I go out in it I think "nah, I'm not selling this". It's just a lovely, restful, peaceful thing to do.
Who would you most like to play a round of golf with?
A very wise, librarian golfer that I know gave me a book to read on the life of Old Tom Morris and his son, Young Tom Morris. These are the guys that basically gave us the modern game of golf, so I'd like to play a round with Old Tom. It would be interesting to see what he thinks about all the modern clubs and bits and pieces. If you're going to play a round of golf, it might as well be with the founder.
How did you get into target shooting? And are you happy to be the new boss at Westmere?
I got into it about 16 years ago. I was looking for something to do with my son, who was around 13 at the time. I'd driven past the Westmere club every day going into town and didn't actually know what it was. Me and my son went up through the grades together until he left, and I've stayed on.
In terms of being the boss out there, I'm very happy to do it because it's a small, supportive club. I'm more of a suggestion-maker than a rule-maker. Normally in small clubs you're filling dead men's shoes, because someone has to die before they move on, but in this case clubs were saying "We've got guys at the top who are in their late 60s/early 70s, so we need to plan for a succession". It was very much an organised thing.
What do you think is Whanganui's best kept secret?
For me, it's the rose garden at the Aramoho Cemetery. There are about 3000 rose bushes up there that are beautifully tended to, by the previous team and the current team. When they're in bloom it's a wonderful place to be. You can go for a wander and do some interesting reading.
How were you able to remain polite to customers for all those years of retail?
For the most part, it wasn't that hard. Many moons ago, when I was at Kmart, they gave all the staff this little card that said "Think like a customer". Someone's got a problem and they want to get it solved, so I guess it comes down to empathy. Sometimes you'd go out the back and kick a box, or you'd get frustrated and want to call them an idiot, but if you can keep your cool and be nice, they leave happy and you keep their money.
Retail gets easier as you get older, with more life experience and skill. Hopefully you're a bit more level-headed. I don't think I've lost my rag with customers over the years because I know they've got a problem and I have to fix it. Make sure you kick an empty box though, never a full one.
How has Covid-19 impacted your job as a funeral director?
For the person that has died, we still look after them the same. The real impact has come in the support we can offer the families of the deceased. I'm a natural hugger, it's just my make-up, and you see someone who is hurting or sad and they just need a quick hug, a touch on the arm or even a handshake, and we can't do that. The inability to give someone that basic support is the thing we find the hardest. Our job is to look after the deceased, but it's more to look after the family of the deceased.
How would you like to see Whanganui in 50 years?
If I could see it from above ground that would be great. I'd be 107 by then. I'd like to see Whanganui fitting into its skin, if you like. We're a regional town with some good assets, but we can't expect to have big universities or full-blown hospitals. We need to look after the people that are here the best we can, but we have the ability to get people to services we can't provide. I'm a big fan of railways, so why not have one that shuttles back and forth from Palmerston North or Wellington?
What is your favourite New Zealand sporting memory?
I remember the Tall Blacks' fourth-place finish in the 2002 World Champs. This was before live streaming and all those sorts of things, so when I knew a game was on I'd say to the ladies in the shop "I'll be back in 15 minutes" and shoot up the road to DA Morrison's because they had a TV in the shop window that was showing the game. The fact that we could get to fourth in the World Champs was amazing. They were a good team.
How do you think Whanganui has changed over the years?
We arrived in 1990, when Mainstreet was just starting to get altered. That was so far ahead of most other places in the country at the time. Then there's the development of the riverbank, the arts centre around UCOL, the murals that are going up, and the way that Castlecliff is redeveloping itself. I think Whanganui is ageing gracefully.
Were cell phones a hard sell in the early days?
It was incredibly hard. Basically, we had to sell the idea that you needed a cell phone. If we didn't create that need or desire in a person, we didn't have a chance. In the early days we had to sell the whole concept. We had around 10 phones in the range, and it was all based on a contract plan. They started at around $60 to $80 a month for 20 minutes' worth of calls. Text messages were 20 cents each. All phones could receive them, but not all phones could send them. Trying to sell a new technology, which Vodafone/BellSouth was, with limited coverage, wasn't the best.