Sandy Brunt: Born 14 August 1918, died May 21st 2018
Firstly, thanks to everyone for coming along today to celebrate Sandy’s 90th year on this planet. Even though Sandy has repeatedly asked Jenny and I (to the point where he nearly didn’t make this party owing to an “unfortunate accident”) “why are we having a party” and stated more than once (we are talking about Sandy here so you know where I am coming from) “I’m not worth it”. It’s clear from the number of cards he has received, and the number of you who have turned up today, that he clearly is worth it!!!! For those of you from “dial a crowd” please don’t tell .. we don’t want to hurt his feelings.
A special thanks goes to those of you that have travelled from Wellington, Jacqui and Andy. We should also think about all those poor souls who have chosen to sacrifice this wonderful occasion to go on missionary service to Australia’s gold coast! I know it was a huge wrench for them!!!!
My father Sandy Brunt. – AKA Alex and PABS (more about that in a minute). I would like to put it to you that he stands out from the crowd, as more than just an ordinary (humble) bloke. Well I thought he was humble until he made this statement yesterday: “everyone loves me, especially the women” now I am not so sure!
Writing this little tribute, has made me realise just how much he has done and been involved in over the years in an effort to make his community a better place. It’s easy in this modern world of rapid fire news, instant hero’s and over rated TV personalities to overlook the true hero’s that live in any society, i.e. the people who work behind the scenes, who make things happen without fuss or fanfare. You all know the ones, and in fact I am guessing that if you know Sandy, then you are these people: the volunteers, meals on wheels workers, service club members, coaches and club members who work without pay, and often without recognition to keep our communities ticking along, i.e. the social glue essential to every community.
Time is arguably the most valuable asset any of us possess. To give that up signifies a tremendous sacrifice. So whilst Dad never reached the giddy heights of stardom or political power, (although he does boast a direct line to the PM – does that count as stardom?) (hands up all those who have wanted to throttle him when he says that?) he has given what I suspect is thousands of hours in volunteer service to the community in which he lives.
So what follows is a very brief synopsis of dads life, illustrated with a couple of pictures .. which by the way will be on a continual loop – now if all these shots of Sandy make you feel nauseous, please feel free to take in some air outside – we do understand.
What I find ironic is that a man who gained the nickname of “PABS” during his time as an officer (he reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander) in the Nav …. nav just joking Dad .. in the Fleet Air Arm (i.e. he flew planes off aircraft carriers and mostly got them back down in one piece) during the second world war, and went so far as to have these initials painted on his Mae west .. which in my mind denotes an element of pride, should become a crusader for law and order. Has told you what the initials stand for? According to Dad’s story, his commanding officer asked him what PABS stood for, so he proudly told him “Pissed again Brunt and stinking, sir”. We laugh about this now, but I must say I have always wondered what dastardly, degrading and possibly illegal acts he did during his shore leave to be crowned with such a suspect and suggestive nick name? It’s funny that whilst he is proud to tell us what it means, he has always been reticent to elucidate on what exactly he did to be awarded such an illustrious nickname.
He is clearly a man of courage and conviction and someone who sets himself goals and works dilgently (and yes, it has to be said, annoyingly sometimes) to reach those goals. But they have seldom been selfish goals. Its fair to say that most of dad’s energies have gone to making other peoples lives better.
Coming back from the war he had two sporting ambitions: to play both senior rugby and cricket. He played rugby for Merviale at 2nd five for half a season before being injured (his team came bottom) and cricket for Sumner until he was 49. He had hoped to play until he was 50, but says that when you get to the stage where you “drop all your catches, get no wickets and don’t make any runs it’s time to give it away.
He got married in to Rona 1954, a marriage which has lasted for 55 years – two fantastically talented, good looking children – for those of you that don’t know my sister, this is Jenny – she the nice one, although, I am sure you can see that she missed out on the family good looks ……
He was an active member of the Sumner lifeboat for several years, and then moved over to let someone else take his place as crew. But this didn’t end his involvement with the Life Boat. This will probably come as a huge surprise to you all to know that he became a fund raiser. The club needed a new boat, so he started the life boat replacement fund. He went around businesses to get them to sponsor the boat. To this day the fund still exists, he is a trustee of it and amazingly some of those original companies he recruited all those years ago still sponsor the Sumner lifeboat.
He was the charter member of the Christchurch south Lions club in 1966, and many years later he charter the Pakeke Club, which means .. and now don’t laugh here, Respected Elder. He still meets with his fellow ex members of that club on a regular basis for lunch.
When I was a boy I suspect he a was a little bit disgusted that I took up my mothers sport, field hockey for Redcliffs school, rather than rugby for Sumner. But very quickly I began playing rugby for Sumner. I have no memory of how or why I changed disciplines, as I am sure Dad would never have used dirty tactics to make me change my mind. But eventually I started playing rugby, and dad was a loyal rugby parent who drove kids round each Saturday, rewarding us after the game with ice creams. I have no doubt that he also organised other parents to drive the kids around.
His great gift is that he is not only an ideas man, but that he has belief in his ideas and is able to encourage and cajole others into helping out and that he sees his projects through from inception to completion. Just think about the “Speak up Campaign” that ran for thirty years or so ago in Christchurch. Whilst watching the “send your sinuses to Arizona” ad on TV Dad realised that if this ad could make money, then why couldn’t he do a similar thing to raise money for a crime prevention campaign encouraging citizens to “speak up” about crime happening in their neighbourhood. He convinced his Lions Club to support him, then went on to convince the Police. He also had the idea to build and then raffle a playhouse with the proceeds going to charity.
The list goes on: coordinating for 13 years the volunteers who manned the Police Kiosk in the square.
Although many volunteers work tirelessly away for many years without even a sniff of recognition, this isn’t so in Dad’s case. During the war he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for daring deeds and for his work on the speech up campaign he was awarded the MBE and also a civic award presented by the then Mayor of Christchurch, Vicki Buck. The police also honoured Sandy by naming a Police Recruit Wing after him, the Sandy Brunt Wing 119.
In his youth he was involved with the Salvation arm, and now, in his later years he has reacquainted himself with the Church and is a regular attendee, as well as a greetee at the door. When he was fresh back from the war dad applied for teachers college, but was declined. It’s funny to think that he finally realised his dream of being a teacher somewhere around his 80th year when he was asked by Denny Richardson of All Saints Sumner if he would like to teach Bible in Schools to 5 and 6 year olds at Redcliffs Primary School. Typical of Dad he said yes (with some trepidation he admits), and for the next 5 years he looked forward to going down to talk to the kids once a week during term time. He finally called it a day when he was around 86 because he was having trouble hearing the little blighter’s. But of course, he couldn’t just walk away, oh no that wouldn’t be Sandy Brunt. So he did what he is clearly good at, and set about raising money for the programme. Initially by selling t-towels (its okay, he hasn’t sourced any more .. relax) that he had sourced from a business college, and once they ran out came up with a simple plan for home groups to raise money for Redcliffs School. Cunning but extremely simple he thought: if everyone put their spare change into a container and then passed it onto him, they wouldn’t miss the money, and Bible in Schools would benefit. Oh yes, and he asked me to thank all who have contributed for helping keeping his whiskey, oops, sorry Dad, I meant the Bible in funds programme running so well.
Always looking to put his skills into practice .. one of his most honed, and of course famous, is his dexterity on the keypad of a phone and the ability to talk the back end off a bus. Still he puts these skills to good use on peoples birthdays, as most of you would know. He meticulously copies down everyone’s birthday into his new diary at the beginning of each year, then phones people to wish them all the best on their special day.
In this way though he keeps in touch with all the wonderful, dedicated people he has met over the years, and no doubt brings a little bit of cheer (horror) into peoples lives.
Dad and I don’t always agree on things, but what impresses me is his dogged determination to get things done (clearly we aren’t talking here about the garden okay, but that’s another story), his tenacity, ability to get things done and willingness to put his money where his mouth is.