Fu­neral di­rec­tor head­ing north

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

He might be head­ing into re­tire­ment, but Stu­art Wheeler is cer­tain the fu­neral in­dus­try will still re­quire his ser­vices.

The long-time fu­neral di­rec­tor and owner of Wheeler’s Guardian Fu­neral Home was ac­knowl­edged last week for more than 20 years in Porirua and 45 years in the in­dus­try.

Porirua mayor Nick Leggett, in giv­ing Wheeler a may­oral recog­ni­tion award, said Wheeler was an em­bed­ded mem­ber of the com­mu­nity and would be missed.

‘‘ The peo­ple of Porirua, es­pe­cially those in the Pa­cific com­mu­nity, felt an affin­ity with you be­cause of your sense of hu­mour and the care that you gave their fam­i­lies in times of grief and loss,’’ Leggett said.

Wheeler, who flirted with a ca­reer in medicine be­fore go­ing into the fu­neral in­dus­try, said he had over­seen more than 6800 fu­ner­als.

He was an em­balmer who helped po­lice iden­tify vic­tims of the Mt Ere­bus dis­as­ter in 1979, re­ceiv­ing the New Zealand Spe­cial Ser­vice Medal in 2007 for his ef­forts.

Wheeler also over­saw the fu­neral of for­mer Gover­norGen­eral Sir David Beat­tie in 2001.

In 2012, he com­mis­sioned a $20,000 life-sized gran­ite statue at Whenua Tapu Ceme­tery to hon­our mem­bers of the armed forces. It was un­veiled on Armistice Day that year.

Re­tire­ment wouldn’t be about sit­ting back and re­lax­ing, Wheeler said. He and wife Ma­ree would be re­tir­ing to Hawke’s Bay to look after land they had bought, which in­cluded an or­chard.

He said that be­cause the fu­neral in­dus­try was small, he was sure of be­ing shoul­der-tapped to fill in or con­sult.

‘‘When the guys in Napier heard I was com­ing up that way, I was asked to cover as a locum. So I may be just as busy as I am now.’’

He said he was sad to be bid­ding farewell to the unique and colour­ful en­vi­ron­ment of Porirua.

‘‘ I’ve thor­oughly en­joyed my time here and I’m re­ally strug­gling with leav­ing. The com­mu­nity have made Ma­ree and me feel in­cred­i­bly wel­come.’’

Photo: KRIS DANDO

Re­tir­ing: Stu­art Wheeler with his with his may­oral recog­ni­tion cer­tifi­cate.

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