Thursday, 26 November 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Roger Beasley - a man for all ages

Some people are born with a natural gift for being able to communicate well with others regardless of their standing in the community, along with having a kind heart. The ones who are truly blessed are those who use their talents to provide natural inspiration to the young, support for those facing hardship, and comfort and compassion to the elderly and the frail.

It’s like helping to prepare for the future while at the same time respecting the efforts of those who have done the hard yards in the past, some of whom have fallen on difficult times through no fault of their own.   

Roger Malcolm Beasley who passed away peacefully on April 23 at his home in Whitianga, aged 80, was all of the above. He was a truly unique individual who will not only be missed dearly by his wife of 59 years, Sylvia, and their extended family, but by the wider Mercury Bay community as well.

Talk to the people who knew Roger well and they all have the same admiration for him, in particular his work with the students involved in Mercury Bay Area School’s aeroplane build programme and his role as welfare officer at the Mercury Bay RSA.

“I remember Roger attending a funeral for a returned serviceman,” says Ian Diprose, the RSA chaplain. “It was extremely hot and he was standing by the hearse alone. When I suggested he move inside out of the heat, he said a soldier should not be left alone until it was time to say their final goodbye. It was a moving moment and in my eyes showed Roger’s true character.” 

Bruce Collier, immediate past president of the Mercury Bay RSA, says Roger’s role as welfare officer was one he took very seriously. “Roger had a personality that fitted perfectly with the role and our veterans appreciated the tireless work he carried out on their behalf,” Bruce says. “He also stayed in touch with widows and often said we were one big family and needed to look after each other as much as we could. By default, he also became our mobility scooter go-to man, picking them up when breakdowns occurred and spending hours in his garage carrying out repairs. He was extremely obliging and never turned his back on those who needed support, even if it was to simply sit down for a long chat and provide some much-appreciated company to those living on their own.”

MBAS teacher, George Fletcher, saw Roger from the other end of the age scale.  “I first met Roger in 2014 when I came on-board with the school's aeroplane build programme,” George says. “He was a very calm and patient man who had an eye for detail. His passion for working with our young people was a real credit to him. He would often be heard telling student’s stories of his days in the Navy and all the lessons life had given him along the way. He was especially generous to the MBAS engineering classes and often supplied bits and pieces that would help out many student and staff projects. We will remember Roger for his humility and his ability to get on with everyone, regardless of their age.”         

Roger was an engineer by trade and ran his own business in Whakatane for around 20 years. He learned his trade as an apprentice fitter/welder with the Royal New Zealand Navy, which he joined as a 17-year old in 1956. “In those days apprenticeships within the Navy were undertaken abroad and Roger ended up in Rosyth, Scotland which was close to my home town and was where we first met,” says Sylvia. “I knew little about New Zealand and thought it was a short ferry ride from Australia initially. We married in 1960 and while Roger headed back to New Zealand on-board the new frigate, HMNZS Taranaki, later that year, I took on the four-week journey aboard a passenger liner solo. The Taranaki eventually arrived in New Plymouth the following October, so it was quite an unusual introduction for me to married life and settling in New Zealand, both of which I have never regretted for one minute.”

Roger was to go on to spend several long spells at sea with the Navy, including two trips to the Antarctic. In 1967 he was based in Singapore along with his family for two years before finally leaving the Navy after 13 years of service.

Life at sea wasn’t over, however, with Roger and Sylvia packing up the family and travelling around the New Zealand coast and living on-board their 45ft ferro ketch for around 18 months. Roger also helped deliver boats back to New Zealand from the Pacific Islands and Australia.

After selling the business in Whakatane, Roger and Sylvia moved permanently to Whitianga in 2003 and both became involved in community work soon after.

“Roger’s other loves and interests over the years were gliding, which he did a lot of in Singapore, and snorkelling and fishing, while in recent years it was his vegetable garden which kept many a family well fed,” says Sylvia.

Roger was to battle skin cancer for many years and underwent numerous surgeries for major skin grafts. While he faced his own battles, he continued to carry out his community work whenever he was able.

Sylvia can’t speak highly enough of the support she and Roger received from both the visiting Hospice nurse and Whitianga Continuing Care in the five months leading up to his passing. “Roger was able to come home during the day, but returned to Continuing Care at night,” she says. “They were incredibly supportive during what was a very difficult time.”

Roger Beasley won’t be forgotten any time soon. He leaves behind rather large boots to fill at the RSA while his work with the students at MBAS will be remembered and appreciated for many years to come.

Pictured: A service to commemorate Rogers’s life will be held on Sunday, 19 July at 11.30am at the Mercury Bay Club in Whitianga.     

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