Humble high-achiever

The funeral programme for Queenstowner Bob Britton, who died last month, aged 84, contains the lyric from kids’ TV programme, Bob the
: ‘‘Can we fix it, yes we can.’’

A remarkably practical man — ‘‘there was nothing he couldn’t do,’’ son Neville says — Bob was also an accomplished musician and artist, hobbies he indulged in especially once he’d retired from 30 years as a loss adjuster.

He was married for almost 61 years to local ‘green thumb’ Jean Britton, who’s most known for organising Arrowtown’s annual flower show.

The couple were last year presented with the Arrowtown Autumn Festival ‘unsung hero’ award on the day of their 60th wedding anniversary.

Raised in Bluff, Bob regularly holidayed in Arrowtown with his family.

After buying an Arrowtown crib, originally from Macetown, he and Jean and their three children also holidayed there.

Jean says after they sold it because they couldn’t extend it, they bought a Queenstown section to build on.

However, on driving over the Shotover Bridge, they saw a crib below for sale and bought that in about 1982.

Bob transformed this into a Tudor-style house — one of four he built over his lifetime — which they moved into in 1988, while selling the other section.

He’d hoped to retire to pursue art, but was in demand in Queenstown till pulling stumps in 2002.

‘‘His practical mind and being able to think outside the square, also being an independent adjuster, made him popular with the insurance companies for the more challenging tasks,’’ Jean says.

He was involved with both the Southland floods in 1984 and Queenstown’s big flood in ’99, but also had interesting jobs like organising the salvage of a yacht from the bottom of Lake Te Anau and an expensive motorbike from Lake Whakatipu.

In retirement, he busied himself in side-by-side recording and painting studios.

He was a keyboardist and guitarist and for almost 20 years was secretary of the Shotover Country Music Club, which he largely ran with its president, the late Reg McTaggart.

Neville says because his fingers were wide, he built a steel guitar whose strings were more spaced out, then built about another 20.

‘‘He was always thinking about a smarter way of doing something,’’ Neville notes.

Jean says he was a great help with the flower show.

He also wrote plays and built sets for the Arrowtown Entertainers’ productions.

A mad-keen veggie grower, he also annually raised 150 tomato plants he’d gift to organisations to sell off to raise money.

Jean says ‘‘he wasn’t an out-there person, he was very humble, he never gave himself credit for his achievements’’.

In addition to Jean, he’s survived by his children, Jenny, Neville and Russell, and four grandchildren.

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