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A tribute to Doug Thorne

There was standing room only on Sunday (May 20) at a celebration of Doug Thorne’s life held in the Waahi Taakaro Golf Clubrooms.

Doug passed away suddenly earlier this month after a severe stroke. He was 72.

The wide cross section of people who attended and spoke at the gathering was testimony to the rich and varied life that Doug led. They included people from his army days, his old golf, rugby and softball mates, work colleagues and of course members of his extended family, which was central to him.

Helen and Doug took over as Waahi Taakaro golf course caretakers and clubhouse managers in late 1998, living in the two-bedroom cottage built by the club next to its clubrooms. They have spent over 20 years there, enjoying the valley setting which reminded them of their rural backgrounds. Doug came from the Bay of Islands while Helen hails from the Riwaka Valley.

Tom Langley invited them both to become club members after catching up with them on the course one evening. Both had played representative sport and they agreed this was something they could do together.

Doug, who was very strong and athletic and a top softballer in his prime, took to golf quickly, winning the intermediate championship a few years later.  He got as low as a 6-handicap and was a prodigious hitter who could reach the No 1 green in two shots at his best.

As well as playing softball and rugby for the Nelson rep team and for Nelson Bays Maori, he shone at NZ softball evergreen tournaments.

Trouble with his knees (he had both eventually replaced) slowed him down later in life.

He was also a crack shot, winning the Army’s coveted Freyberg Rosebowl . As a sergeant in the Territorials, he helped train and motivate many young volunteers wanting to join the Army.

He was a builder and joiner by trade and worked on some of Nelson’s biggest project, including the Rutherford Hotel, the BNZ and Trailways. He later got involved in civil construction and bridge building with the Ministry of Works. He also worked for the NZ Apple and Pear Board in Nelson, starting as a forklift driver and eventually become its shipping officer here. He later joined Sealord after going down to their factory at the port to fill in and finding he enjoyed it.  He was hoping to assist as a forklift driver this Hoki season.

Doug did a lot of voluntary work, including at Habitat for Humanity’s Restore shop repairing donated goods for sale. He served with the Iron Duke Sea Scouts, had a stint as a swim trainer for Jos Pattison and was on the Waahi Taakaro club’s men’s committee for a time.

As well as his caretaking duties, he was always quick to assist around the club, be it helping coach juniors, working behind the bar, making sure golfers’ gear wasn’t damaged in the regular floods that occurred before the stopbank was built. He and Helen worked tirelessly making sure the clubrooms were clean and tidy and helping out at the club’s big tournaments, the Charity Classic and later the Maitai Masters.

He was an excellent Bridge and card player and a competent horseman and handy to have around to deal with wandering sheep, wild pigs (he shot 18 in one year alone) and deer on the course. He was the ideal man – calm, softly spoken but authoritative – to handle after-hour visitors and would-be vandals straying onto the course.

One of life’s gentlemen and much loved and respected, he will be sorely missed by not only club members, but by all those he befriended and worked with.

Our heartfelt condolences go to Helen, their sons Brendan and Evan and their families.

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