The deaths of both Margaret’s and Bob Basta’s fathers within four days of each other were the catalyst for the couple to stop just talking about coming to New Zealand and actually do it .
Now, nearly 12 years later, Dr Basta and his wife are heading back to the United States to live permanently.
Dr Basta, who has been working in the Gore Hospital accident and emergency department, on the ward and at Gore Health Centre for between three and five months a year, has decided to retire.
The couple are vowing to continue to visit the South to catch up with the many friends they have made.
In his time in the US, DrBasta worked in private practice, tutored at the University of Nevada medical school and worked in a large multi-specialist centre.
“I enjoyed each phase of my career,” he said.
He enjoyed biology at school and was the child who liked to look for bugs under rocks.
During his secondary school years he worked at a hospital during the summer breaks.
That fuelled his interest in medicine.
The couple had talked about coming to New Zealand and Mrs Basta had visited New Zealand previously.
When the couple decided to make a move after the two family deaths, Dr Basta contacted a physician recruiting service and a position was available in Gore.
“I thought, ‘gee, that’s pretty far south’,” he said.
The job was for six months.
“The rest is history.”
Growing up having a grandfather living in a rural area meant coming to Gore was not a totally foreign experience.
He was familiar with issues that affected a rural practice.
Gore Hospital staff were excellent to work with, he said.
The nurses based at the hospital and GP practice had a wealth of knowledge about the members of the community, he said.
Rural doctors got to know not only the patient but also the family, he said.
He might see a patient in the clinic and then two hours later see them in the supermarket.
Meeting former Table Talk Cafe owners Peter and Bev McDonald helped him settle into life in Eastern Southland.
Mr McDonald introduced him to fly-fishing.
“I really enjoy getting out into the rivers.”
The fishing and southern hospitality appealed to the couple.
During their time in Gore they had lived in nine different homes.
The moves gave them the chance to meet new neighbours and make more friends.
“We continue to have a wonderful experience.”
The couple joined the Hokonui Tramping Club, which provided another avenue to meet people and explore the outdoors.
“And that was a fantastic experience for me.”
The couple have timed their annual stint in New Zealand to coincide with summer here, returning to the US for that country’s summer.
And while the couple plan to live in the US permanently, the Gore area has made a strong impression on them.
“I would say we’ll definitely come back to Gore. I just won’t be working.
“I think our heart is here.”