The other night was a “fellowship night” at my Rotary club: no speaker, just time for us to talk amongst ourselves. My friend Barry Brown is a trustee for the estate of Peter Dixon, a former president of our club. Our conversation touched on an event a few years ago which really deserves to be told.
Peter was a farmer out at the Glen, just north of Nelson. I knew him well because the Cawthron Institute entered into a joint venture with these farmers when we established an aquaculture research facility. Peter and his family were more than just landlords, they took a great interest in the facility and the research that went on there. So when we eventually had an official opening of the facility by the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jim Bolger, of course the Dixon family were invited.
Unfortunately, Peter was terminally ill with an inoperable brain tumour by the time the big event arrived. He was receiving palliative care at his home, up on the hill overlooking the Glenhaven research centre. He couldn’t leave the house.
We were able to alter our plans and arrange for the official morning tea to be served at Peter’s home instead. This would give Peter, a long time and very active National party supporter, a chance to meet the Prime Minister. Local photographer Harold Mason had been covering the official proceedings, so he was invited up for morning tea as well. Well, he didn’t get any. He was flat-out photographing Peter and Jim Bolger, and of course the rest of the family had their turn as well. But fairly quickly, once everyone had their chance to stand beside the PM, Jim Bolger did something that really impressed me. ” That’s enough of me” he said, ” why not get some family shots now?” And that’s what happened. Peter’s whole family: mother, wife, children, brothers and in-laws all had a series of family portraits taken. Something no-one would normally have organised at such a distressing time. Jim Bolger talked with those family members who were not in that particular frame: real conversations, not small talk. Finally (and the process took quite a long time), the official party packed up and we left.
Peter died only a week or so later. Because of Jim Bolger’s willingness to give up some of his very valuable time, and to put himself right into an emotionally charged situation, Peter Dixon had a great morning and his family were left with a series of images that they value highly.