A Queenstowner who died of cancer this week was behind the revival of both a local organisation and a community facility.
Former Vietnam War air squadron leader Dave Geddes, 69, who’s survived by his wife, Maryann, was instrumental in relaunching the Returned and Services’ Association’s Queenstown branch in 2005.
It had been in recess for two years after ageing World War II veterans struggled to keep it going.
Despite 21-plus years in the airforce, he didn’t believe in restricting the RSA to war veterans, former fellow committee member Steve Wilde says.
“He always said to me, it doesn’t matter what your background is, you’re welcome at the RSA.”
Wilde says that unlike WWII vets, Vietnam War servicemen were shunned when they returned to New Zealand.
“I suppose he fought for recognition his whole life.
“He probably had quite a hard life but you never saw that - he never moaned, he never felt sorry for himself.
“He was always such a positive person - you were drawn to him because he had such a lovely personality.”
Originally branch secretary, he became president for not just Queenstown but the entire Otago/Southland district.
He impressed with his public speaking and the way he ran meetings, Wilde says.
When Geddes was speaking once in the old Queenstown Memorial Hall, Wilde noticed the roof leaking, which galvanised both men into pushing to modernise the facility.
The pair were both on the trust that restored the hall two years ago.
Geddes played a major role, Wilde says.
“The whole memorial aspect of this building was in Dave’s hands, and he guarded that.”
The RSA used to meet in the old hall, but got a dedicated facility in the new Queenstown Memorial Centre.
Lyall McGregor, who took over the local RSA presidency from Geddes five weeks ago, says he was a natural leader.
“You need someone strong from the front and he did it very well.
“I’ve got fairly big shoes to fill but he made the playing field, he got the team - it’s a lot easier when you can step in and just take over the steering wheel.”
On Anzac Day last month, when Geddes attended both the dawn and Memorial Centre services in a wheelchair, McGregor presented him with a plaque on behalf of RSA’s national president.
His funeral will be held at Frankton’s St John rooms on Saturday.