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Big play: Sharon Thomas with former Prime Minister Jim Bolger at the opening of Skyline's Christchurch Casino - the first in NZ - in 1994

By PHILIP CHANDLER

Queenstowner Sharon Thomas, who died last week, aged 74, is being recalled for her kindness, golfing exploits and as the woman behind one of the resort’s most successful businessmen.

Lumsden-raised Sharon met Barry Thomas when they were both at school in Invercargill.

After marrying in 1967, Barry — then an accountant with Dunedin-based W.Gregg & Co — says when the company posted him to the Cook Islands, he needed Sharon’s dad’s  permission to take her as she was still under 21.

He adds Rarotonga was ‘‘no tropical paradise — Sharon thought it might be’’.

However, she took up golf there, mostly playing in bare feet.

‘‘She had a hole-in-one but it wasn’t counted because she had an air shot before’’ — she later scored three legitimate aces.

Returning to Dunedin, Sharon had success selling jewellery, but they then moved to Queenstown in ’69.

After Barry’s accountancy career took off, he decided he could afford a Ford Capri — he asked Sharon to pick it up in Dunedin but then got her to hide the car in case clients thought he was charging too much.

In the mid-’70s the couple relocated to Invercargill, where Sharon looked after their young boys, Richard and Lyndon, between playing golf at the Otatara course.

In ’87 the Thomases moved again to Queenstown, building at Kelvin Heights and Sharon took up playing again at Queenstown Golf Club’s nearby course, where she’d originally played on opening day in 1975.

Sharon also served as local MP Warren Cooper’s electorate secretary.

Barry was then in the midst of a 33-year reign chairing gondola company Skyline Enterprises, leading the charge as it diversified into luges, casinos and property — he was also founder and former co-owner of Mountain Scene.

He also joined the New Zealand Rugby Union board and vowed he and Sharon would try to watch every All Blacks Test, which led to travels around the world, including meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Sharon’s travel highlight, though, was annual trips to Hawaii to watch the Sony Open golf tournament.

Barry admits she didn’t share so much his passion for horse racing, though she did own two horses, Gray Tom and Shaz the Bank, which had the odd win.

‘‘They had to be gray so she could pick them out easily.’’

Richard explains ‘Shaz’ was a nickname that came from her grandkids.

‘‘She didn’t want to be ‘nana’ or ‘gran’ or ‘grandma’ because she didn’t want to sound old but she was OK with ‘Shaz’.’’

Lyndon says his mum was ‘‘the heart of the family’’.

Richard adds: ‘‘She just loved buying and giving gifts.’’

Golfing friend Sue Gain says at the club ‘‘she had these amazing raffle hampers which always included some of Barry’s wine’’.

As a golfer, ‘‘Sharon was always very friendly and the other ladies enjoyed playing with her’’.

Despite her recent illness — she battled cancer for the past 18 months — ‘‘she never complained, never said ‘why me?’ and just used to say to us, ‘enjoy the day while you’re there’.’’

Sharon’s funeral was held at the golf course on Wednesday.

scoop@scene.co.nz