ROY GOWER: 14.7.1934 – 31.5.2022
Roy Gower did many things during his well-lived 87 years. He had been a truck driver, real estate agent, hotel owner, station hand, historian and farmer.
But the eulogies at his June 4 farewell service in Cambridge spoke to the man himself. He was known as a patient, hardworking ‘gentleman’ who loved family, rugby and reading, and who never had a bad word to say about anyone. He was always up for a cup of tea and a chat, never swore and, no matter the pressure he was under, just got on with the job at hand.
Roy and his wife Bev were admired for their tough work ethic and just plain ‘niceness’. Whether it was during their farming years or the nine years the couple breathed new life into Sarnia Park (now Henley Hotel), the ‘to do’ list was always long and family help plentiful.
Of the many accolades heard at his farewell, some of the warmest came from his grandchildren.
They clustered together to share the mettle of the man who, said one of them, never did figure out how to hold a grudge. Stories spilled out of childhood antics likely to test anyone’s patience, yet Roy never lost his. He was a man who led by example, who was particular about how he liked his tea, always had Jaffas or Oddfellows stashed in his ute’s glovebox, and always supported his youngsters’ activities.
A nephew who felt more like a son told of the importance of putting more butter on toast than anything else. Roy taught him that … along with how to do wheelies in a tractor.
Roy was born in Pukekohe in 1934. The family later farmed in Pukehina then moved to the Waikato where Roy attended Hamilton Technical High School before doing his compulsory military training at Waiouru. He later moved to the South Island, working in a wool-store on a sheep station and then doing a spell of truck driving.
It was on a trip to New Plymouth that he met young bank teller Beverley Thompson. Their daughter Suzanne said Bev realised he was the man for her when he lent her his car which she drove around with the handbrake on, and Roy didn’t complain. After marrying in 1960, the young couple followed the family farming tradition, purchasing their first farm in 1967, 40.4 hectares in Wharepapa South and enjoying an active community life.
In 1979, they moved to a dairy farm at Te Miro. Long-time friend and Te Miro neighbour, Wallace Hall, said Roy’s farm improved immensely under his management… it always looked immaculate. Roy added estate agent to his resume for a few years when the couple moved to Hamilton in 1992 but returned to farming in Tamahere and Bay of Plenty.
Then came the Sarnia Park years, with the Gowers purchasing the estate in early 2008, just before the global financial crisis hit.
“We had it for nine years,” Bev said. “It was hard work but we had a very loyal following. The children worked with us and the staff were wonderful… there were approximately 250 weddings there in the nine years we had it.”
The couple sold Sarnia Park in 2017 to settle into a quieter, urban life in Cambridge.
Roy is survived by his wife Bev, four daughters, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.