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Gordon Rogers has been recognised for his generosity, but the 95-year-old doesn’t do it for the glory. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

‘Town pride’ at heart of Gordon’s goodwill

The story of how Gordon Rogers came to live in Waihī is one of timing.
After his second wife passed away from cancer in 2006, a friend of his told him to “hop on a plane and come over to Christchurch; spend a couple of weeks here to get away from it all”.
The Australian-born did just that and, after discovering some family history within New Zealand, he returned home but was “80 per cent sure” he was going to come back.
Fast-forward to 2010, he married again and told his new wife he wanted to “live and die in New Zealand”.
“We drove all round the North Island. I had a list of towns on an A4 sheet of paper – 20 of them. We finished that list and came back the next year and went to different towns written on another list. Waihī wasn’t written on the first list. Waihī wasn’t on the second list. It wasn’t in the top 40,” he said. “But one night, we came through to the roundabout and I looked up and I saw the lights on the poles and the flags… two days later, I leased a house for a year.”
Gordon, 95, said he knew nothing about Waihī, but that the lights and the flags told him it had plenty of “town pride” and he officially became a local a few years later.
That feeling of belonging to and being proud of the town where he lived has been a constant theme throughout the goodwill Gordon has spread among Waihī, of which he was presented with a certificate of appreciation from the district’s mayor Toby Adams last week.
Gordon was one of the driving forces behind the planting of hundreds of cherry blossom trees throughout town, as well as the thousands of daffodil bulbs at Waihī Cemetery.
He is also the founder of the Waihī Cherry Blossom Society, but said he couldn’t have done a thing without the help of Max McLean and Sel Baker.
“I’ve had lots of ideas that have ended up on the rocks, but this one worked,” he said.
“Deep inside, I feel proud because, just as I taught my daughters and sons: at times in life you come to a fork in the road and you don’t know which way is wrong or right. But if you choose one road, go right to the end because you won’t know whether you win or lose until you’re at the end. But every time I look [at the award], all I see is Sel and Max.”
Mayor Toby said council did not give certificates of appreciation “out lightly” but instead made sure they went to someone who was “absolutely doing some amazing stuff in our community”.
“I always put a lot of thought and effort into who is deserving and this was an easy no-brainer,” he said.