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Vale Keith Purnell

One of our great identities passed on last week, and the funeral at St George's was both apt, and a satisfying reminder of a life well-lived and appreciated.

Keith may have been a highly respected and valued lawyer, but he was a lot more than that. I have never met a lawyer who has ever accomplished what Keith has in the course of a lifetime, and 50 years in the law.

My vivid memory of Keith will be the sight of him at the age of 90 cultivating his north facing hillside almost in the heart of Thames, ready to plant his annual Kumara crop. It looked dangerous, and the old International (I think!) puffed and struggled, but it was all in day's work for Keith. He simply had annual chores than needed to be done, and no-one else to do them. 

The shed where he built his stainless steel yacht was perched above Alice's wonderful house that he sold to us on Alice's behalf on our arrival in Thames in 2004. How on earth he managed to get 'Sine Die' from that shed to the water I will never know, but determination must have been the main driver, even if Max devised the route. 

We formed a close attachment to Keith, and his companion Vivian over the years, and he and I often sat in the lounge of the house he built with his own hands arguing the finer points of local body and national politics, but mostly he wanted to talk about the degradation of the Earth, and some of the more adventurous trips he had been on. 

One thing to which he always held true was his commitment to social justice, and equal opportunity. He abhorred greed and some the more egregious aspects of capitalism and the Douglas reforms. On the other hand, he was a stickler for fair play, and during his legal career successfully fought the ridiculous transport limits that protected the inefficient government railways.

Keith was man for all seasons, and a highly intelligent knockabout with some of the better characteristics of Barry Crump to carry him through. There seemed nothing that he had not done, or could not turn his hand to.

Above all, he was a great neighbour for us, a true and trustworthy character, and a man who commanded respect from all who knew him. And hundreds of cockies who relied on his sage legal advice will be missing him dearly - it was they who kept him in the game far longer than was probably necessary, but no longer than he wanted.

Vale Keith!



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