Wakatipu mourns loyal businessman and rugby stalwart.
His nickname was “Huge” and in the local building industry, Arrowtown rugby and as a bloke, Ewan Edgerton lived up to it.
So it was no surprise that his funeral last week, after his sudden death at 57 due to a heart attack, should also be huge, attracting 1000 people.
Ironically, his wife Sue says his proper nickname was “Uge”, which his Southland family used to differentiate him from his brother Owen who was known as “Oge”.
“But everyone up here thought it was “Huge”.”
The couple came to Queenstown in 1981 for a nine-week building job for local accountant/developer Bryan Collie.
But they didn’t go back, and two years later shifted to Arrowtown.
“It’s a rags-to-riches story,” says close friend Warren Jones.
“He came to Arrowtown with nothing, worked like a dog and turned [Edge Construction] into one of the best building businesses in [the Wakatipu].”
His jobs included Queenstown’s Lone Star, Steamer Wharf, The Spire and Hamilton buildings, Arrowtown’s Saffron complex and mansions for John Martin and the late Howard Paterson, and Amisfield winery at Lake Hayes.
Latterly he was building Queenstown’s Church Street complex, employing about 25 people.
“He just seemed to get busier the older he got,” Sue says.
He was also about to start another head-of-the-lake job for Blanket Bay owner Tom Tusher, but Sue says that’s now in doubt. “No good without that core person in the middle,” she says.
Developer Martin, who first employed him on the Savoy building in Dunedin, says: “He was one of the finest men I’ve ever met and done business with.
“His integrity was beyond reproach and he was totally loyal.”
Ewan was involved in the revival of the Arrowtown Rugby Club 20 years ago and served it as a player, committee member, delegate, coach, manager, president and perennial sponsor.
Sue: “We travelled each week to watch them play – if something came up and he couldn’t make it, he’d be pretty gutted.”
Needless to say he propped in his playing days: “You could tell that by his ears and his neck,” Sue adds.
He was overjoyed when the Arrowtown Premiers won the Otago Country champs last year, and the team will be paying tribute to him at its season-opening home game this Saturday at Jack Reid Park.
Local Grant Murphy, whose wife Lisa is Ewan’s niece, says he “crossed the spectrum – it didn’t matter if it was the fellow who put the nails in or the guy who paid the bills, he got on with everybody”.
Grant’s dad Gordon, who played and coached with Ewan, adds: “He was just a big teddy bear.
“He seemed to be fun all the time – I never saw him run anybody down.
“He just enjoyed life as if today or tomorrow was his last day.”
On his last day, he saw Welsh golfer Richard Johnson score a hole in one in front of him on the 15th hole of The Hills on the last day of the New Zealand Open on March 15.
Sue adds: “He just raved about it for the rest of the day – he said, ‘I’m just so pleased I was Johnny on the spot to see that’.”
He is survived by wife Sue, son Brent, 26, and daughter Carrie, 24.