Friends remember a ‘true gentleman’
A man who died trying to save his drowning friend was a ‘‘true gentleman’’ who would do anything to help others, those who knew him say.
Robert Groves, 64, and Judith (Judy) Palmer, 62, both drowned last Wednesday in Rarotonga.
Mr Groves went to the aid of Mrs Palmer who got into trouble while swimming in a notorious lagoon.
He and his wife were on the island with Mrs Palmer and her husband John, who is the Auckland City police chief inspector, for the wedding of their daughter Vanessa Palmer.
The ceremony scheduled for the day after the accident has been postponed while the families deal with the deaths and prepare to bring the bodies home to New Zealand.
Mr Groves worked at Nura- lite Waterproofing systems in Onehunga.
Managing director John Simmons says the company learned of his death with sadness.
‘‘Rob was a true gentleman who, over the past 40 years in the waterproofing industry, built a strong reputation based on integrity, practical knowledge and personal service,’’ he says.
‘‘The fact that he died trying to rescue his neighbour is the ultimate testament to his commitment to helping others.’’
Mr and Mrs Palmer were married for 42 years and Mr Palmer has been with the police for 47 years.
Auckland City district commander superintendent Mike Clement says his district has been left reeling by the news.
‘‘We can only imagine the magnitude of the devastation John, his family and the Groves family are feeling.
‘‘I know personally that the trip to Rarotonga for Vanessa’s wedding was to be the highlight of the year for John and Judy and that much planning and anticipation surrounded it,’’ he says.
Both couples were staying in Vaimaanga, in the southwest corner of Rarotonga.
The area is notorious for drownings and disappearances.
At the time of the accident the area was hit by strong winds and swells and guests at resorts had been warned not to go swimming or kayaking.
Cook Islands News publisher John Woods says the passage can be turbulent in the right conditions and he believes as many as eight people have died there in the last decade.
‘‘It is notoriously dangerous, and there are signs there. With the swell and the tides, a lot of water would have flooded into the lagoon,’’ he says.
Life lost: Robert Groves died while trying to rescue Judith Palmer who also drowned in Rarotonga.