Family shares memories of Mataura advocate

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“A dog with a bone” is how family members describe Bill Lee.

The Mataura man died aged 81 on Saturday morning, at Gore Hospital, surrounded by his family.

His wife Doreen, daughter Keri and stepdaughter Karon Turipa shared memories of Mr Lee with The Ensign.

Mrs Lee said when her late husband felt strongly about an issue he was determined to do something about it.

“When something annoyed him or he wanted something done he was like a dog with a bone,” she said.

“He was like that with everything.”

While he might have strong opinions, once he had voiced them that was the end of the matter.

“He didn’t hold a grudge.”

When the couple married in 1981, Mrs Lee already had five children from a previous marriage.

“What a great thing for a man to do, taking on five kids.”

Mr Lee, who was then 41, treated his new stepchildren as if they were his own, even when they were in their 40s and 50s.

“He was always the father,” Mrs Lee said.

He was very caring but the children had to do what they were told, she said.

Mrs Turipa, who was 16 years old at the time, was the oldest of Mrs Lee’s children.

“He was the father of all of us,” Mrs Turipa said.

“He taught me to drive.

“He was quite stern, too, which was probably what we needed.”

When the couple had a daughter of their own, Keri, Mr Lee was delighted.

“When he had Keri she was just the cat’s pyjamas and he thought she was wonderful,” Mrs Lee said.

Mr Lee had a very strong sense of community which started as a young man growing up in Waikaia.

“He was a foundation member of the Waikaia Fire Brigade and the first ever secretary,” Mrs Lee said.

He enjoyed sport and being outside.

“He was a very keen deer stalker.”

In 1967 Mr Lee moved to Mataura and was employed at the meat processing works.

In 1999 he retired early due to ill health and in 2002 a leg was amputated.

The other leg was amputated in 2007.

In 2007 he was elected to the Mataura Community Board and became the chairman.

He was a strong advocate for Mataura.

“He just wanted Mataura to have a fair shot,” Ms Lee said.

Every morning after eating his breakfast he would take a scooter ride around the town to make sure there were no issues to report to the council, such as leaking water mains taps.

He was very sociable and would talk to anyone he met, Mrs Lee said.

“He loved a good yarn and he loved a cup of tea.”

The building of the Mataura Community Centre was one project Mr Lee championed while he was the community board chairman.

“He would be down there sitting on the footpath giving his tuppence-halfpenny worth to the builders and making sure everything was done right.

“He was really proud of how good a building it was even though there was an awful lot of opposition to it going where it went.”

A celebration of Mr Lee’s life will be held at the Mataura Bowling Club tomorrow at 1.30pm.short url linkPatike