Final act of kindness from a true community man

04 May 2021

Earlier this year, Alan Arbuckle, a long-time past resident of Whitianga, who in life was known for his generosity and community service, made his last contribution to two Mercury Bay organisations - the Mercury Bay Golf Club and St John - as well as the New Zealand Cancer Society.

The generous bequests in his will, made through Alan’s lawyer, was the final gesture of community kindness from a man known in Whitianga for giving his time and resources to so many.

Born on an orchard in Richmond Nelson, the only boy with five sisters, Alan was schooled and trained as an electrician in Feilding. One weekend in the early 1960s Alan and a friend travelled to Whitianga on holiday and he immediately fell in love with the area. He went back to Feilding, sold everything and came to Whitianga permanently. He got a job with Mercury Bay Electrical and rented a room in a boarding house. He joined numerous community groups and became the “go to man” for numerous working bees and fix-it jobs. 

Alan’s deep connections with the community spanned but was not limited to the Mercury Bay Golf Club, the Whitianga Lions and Kauri 2000, and he was an original investor in getting the Whitianga Marina project started. He even had a berth in the marina, although he never had a boat. As former Thames-Coromandel District Council mayor, Glenn Leach, said, “Alan belonged to everything he needed to belong to, to keep the community running.”

A respected businessman, Alan had the opportunity to buy Mercury Bay Electrical in 1980 and ran that until 1991 when it was purchased by 100% Electrical. Throughout that time, his electrical skills were sought after and utilised in his trade, but even more in his community contributions. Glenn remembers his time with Alan at the Mercury Bay Golf Club where Alan was instrumental in keeping all of the electrics going, often negotiating underground cables where people had unwisely planted trees. Alan would sometimes dig for days to find the origins of faults to fix. 

In 1984, the Golf Club purchased the land that is now the back nine, financed by member debentures. In 2004, Alan generously forgave his $6,000 debenture. According to Glenn, Alan was a quiet man who had a wry sense of humour and enjoyed the camaraderie of the game. 

Alan’s nephew, Grant Signal, said that the Golf Club was a happy place for Alan who loved golf, although golf did not always love Alan or treat him kindly.

A long-term member of the Lions, Alan joined the organisation in Feilding in 1963 and transferred his membership to Whitianga in 1970. When he transferred, it was noted on his membership form that, “Alan has been a particularly good Lion in our club. He has been a very willing worker and accepted many special jobs for projects and carried them out willingly and efficiently.” 

During his time with the Whitianga Lions, Alan served in many leadership positions, including vice-president in 1975 and president from 1976 to 1977.

Over his 52 years as a Lion, although Alan received a number of awards and accolades, fellow Lion Gordon Barnaby remembers Alan as humble man, a quiet bachelor who never sought kudos.

In 1981, Alan bought 10 Buffalo Beach Road, which at the time was a modest single story house on the beach front.  A keen project man, it wasn’t long before he started to rebuild. He lifted the house off the ground to build a single block story under it, and then lowered the original house to create a two-story home with panoramic views of the Bay. He enjoyed welcoming and entertaining his extended family and their friends, especially on the front balcony, where the nieces and nephews and guests would spend many summer evenings with a beverage in hand watching the many passers-by.

When Alan sold Mercury Bay Electrical in 1991, he retired and took up a new passion of cruising and travel. Grant says his uncle loved the life on cruise ships, wearing his tuxedo to dinners and events, and even did a 109-day trip around the world. Plans for another cruise a few years ago were unfortunately interrupted by a dire cancer diagnosis. But with his usual optimism, Alan dove into a long treatment plan which gave him much more time than expected. He eventually moved to Ohinemuri Resthome in Paeroa to recover because it was closer to family. He was happy there and lived a simple life of playing housie, reading the paper and walking around the grounds. 

Alan passed away on 21 November 2019 and at his funeral was remembered by Grant as “a man of great humility, never thinking of himself.”

According to Graham Eccles, president of the Mercury bay Golf Club, Alan’s bequest to the club “will be put to good use.” Alan’s contribution to St John was used in the purchase of the new Mercury Bay Health Shuttle.

Pictured: Long-time past resident of Whitianga, Alan Arbuckle, passed away on 21 November 2019. Two Mercury Bay organisations - the Mercury Bay Golf Club and St John - received generous bequests in his will earlier this year.