Sunday, 27 September 2020


Farewell and thank you, Malcolm Brown

Whitianga gathered on Saturday last week to pay their respects to Malcolm Brown - leader, friend and adoring family man, who was passionate about his community and lived life to the full.

Amid the shock and sadness of Malcolm’s passing on 6 June, there was light-hearted humour, laugh-out loud stories and a sense of deep pride among the 79-year-old’s family and friends as they reflected on the man they loved and the dedicated champion behind some of Whitianga’s most notable achievements - the Whitianga Menz Shed, the Whitianga Marina and maybe most crucial of all, the Mercury Bay X-ray facility.

“If you think of the thousands of people who have already used the X-ray facility and the thousands more who will use it into the future, it’s quite a legacy to leave,” said long-time friend, Chris Rendle.

Describing his fellow Whitianga Lion as a true leader who “just got things done,” working harder than anyone else in the process, Chris recalled the first meeting of the Whitianga Lions Club to discuss the possibility of an x-ray machine for Whitianga. “When we heard it would cost more than $250,000, we were thinking we’d never raised that sort of money before, it was all sounding a bit hard,” he said. “Malcolm decided he’d go down and see The Informer and the next week we were on the front page of the paper and we were doing it. He always saw the glass as three quarters full. He had no time for conflict, it was all about seeing what needed to be done and getting on with it. It took us only four months to raise all the money we needed.”

It was this positive approach and attitude that earned Malcolm great respect and also great reward, both in his personal and professional life. He joined the New Zealand Post Office when he was no more than 15 years old, having been expelled from his Hamilton school after failing to turn up to class because he wanted to do gymnastics training instead. “He was passionate about gymnastics, it was all he wanted to do at the time,” said Malcolm’s wife, Pauline. The determination paid off as Malcolm competed successfully at national level for several year in his teens.

His dedication and problem-solving skills would also take him up the ladder within the telegraph arm of the Post Office and its successor, Telecom New Zealand. “My dad went in to train as a mechanician, so he started out as basically a trades assistant at the telephone exchange, running the tools, getting whatever they needed, going up and down the stairs with the hot soldering iron,” said Malcolm’s son, Chris. “He was supportive of everything my sister, Lee, and I did. He was always there for us growing up. We respected him so much we just never wanted to disappoint him or let him down.”

By the time he retired in 1992, Malcolm had risen to the ranks of regional manager, spending most of his working life in Hamilton with a stint in Matamata. His reputation was such that the World Bank asked him to travel to Bangladesh to help solve some issues with their telecommunications system. “He found it very hard,” recalled Pauline. “He was in the most beautiful hotel but looking out onto such squalor, that really bothered him. But he thought the people there were wonderful.”

Retirement was the catalyst for a permanent move to Whitianga, a place both Pauline and Malcolm loved, and where they met after their children had been sailing together. “My parents were living in Whitianga and my girls would come on holidays here,” said Pauline. “I would hear about this man who took them out on the boat.”

So when that same man came one day to ask who wanted to go sailing, Pauline very quickly put her hand up. “I’d never been sailing before, I fell in love with it and with the man a little bit later on,” she smiled.

Malcolm and Pauline married in 1986, blending seamlessly their combined family of five children - Lee, Chris, Deborah, Leanne and Maree. Spending time with them and later his grandchildren and great-grandchildren was one of the great joys of Malcolm’s life. “He just loved all of them, he lived for them,” said Pauline.

Poppa to some and “Mingi” to others, his calm demeanour, and constant appetite for fun made Malcolm an adored granddad and visits were both frequent and cherished. Mingi took hold after one grandchild couldn’t quite manage to pronounce “Pinky,” the nickname Malcolm carried since his schooldays. Chris said the nickname was selected for his dad after he complained about being called “Brownie.” When asked by a teacher what he would prefer, he said he didn’t know and the cheeky suggestion from a classmate was Pinky. Many decades on, it was still in common use.

While sailing and family time were high the retirement agenda, the decision to move to Whitianga quickly became the local community’s gain, with things like golf set aside in favour of community endeavour. “Malcolm would just hear about something that needed doing and off he’d go,” said Pauline. “He never saw anything as a problem and he didn’t want any recognition, it’s just how he was.”

As well leading more recently the set-up of the Whitianga Menz Shed, of which he was president, Malcolm was also instrumental in the team effort behind the Whitianga Marina. “At some point, they needed to move a cable and it was causing all sorts of issues,” said Pauline. “They had received a quote of $100,000, so Malcolm got on to some people he knew to ask them where they got that figure from. The quote was reduced to $30,000, but in the end, they never even received a bill.”

Malcolm and Pauline’s famous Robinson Road scallop parties, along with the many “post-match” events they hosted after various fundraisers, are among the memories Chris Rendle and his wife, Deborah, recall. “Malcolm never treated things like they were hard work,” said Deborah. “There was always fun involved with him. But he did it with Pauline beside him and they brought other people together.”

Pauline said it was never hard partnering with her husband on their various endeavours. “Malcolm just loved people, we both did,” she said. “It was easy, because we loved the same things, we were a team.” This is a thought echoed by Petra Bosman, co-owner of The Informer. “When I looked through our records for photos of Malcolm that could be displayed at his memorial service, the one thing that struck me was that Pauline was with him on virtually all the photos,” she said. “They adored each other, they did everything together.”

Malcolm passed away at home in Robinson Road at a time in his life that was filled with happiness and contentment. His memorial service at St Andrew’s by the Sea Community Church last Saturday was attended by more than 250 people.

Pauline said, just over three weeks away from his 80th birthday, her soulmate was exactly where he wanted to be when he passed away. “Quite some time after we’ve moved to Whitianga, Malcolm was asked to come out of retirement to go back overseas to solve some issues,” she said. “He thought about it briefly. But then he just stood and looked out our front window and he turned to me and said, ‘But Pauline, how could I ever leave all this?’”

Pictured: Malcolm and Pauline Brown. Malcolm, the dedicated champion behind some of Whitianga’s most notable achievements, passed away on 6 June, three weeks shy of his 80th birthday.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.