Russell McGrouther


The Wakatipu lost three treasured community stalwarts over one weekend this month with the deaths of Russell McGrouther, Wendy Perkins and Elbert de Koning.

Originally a local motelier, Dunedin-raised McGrouther was the resort’s funeral director for 29 years till 2015 — Ruth, his wife of 44 years, was also heavily involved in both businesses.

The one-time national vice-president of Jaycees was a major driver behind Queenstown’s first kindergarten in the ‘80s.

He oversaw the major fundraiser — an ambitious Rotary project to build a ‘house-in-a-day’, which was then auctioned.

Russell was also a Scout leader and drove fundraising for the Frankton marina Scout den.

His long involvement with Rotary included a one-year stint as club president which
finished last year.

He had almost 50 years in freemasonry and latterly was involved with the local historical society.

Friend Stuart Maclean says he was a great behind-the-scenes organiser.

‘‘He was fastidious in his attention to detail and, as a result, things went smoothly when Russell was organising something.’’

From ‘92, Wendy Perkins’ first years in Queenstown, alongside her husband Lex, were also in the accommodation sector before they sold up and moved to Arrowtown in 2002.

Huge heart: Wendy Perkins, with husband Lex, in 2016

Lex served two-and-a-half terms as the town’s councillor before the couple left, in 2015, for an extended tour around New Zealand.

Friend John Mann says Wendy was ‘‘a tiny person with a bloody enormous heart’’.

‘‘They were both community-driven — she was absolutely as busy as he was.’’

Lex says her biggest role was with Alcoholics Anonymous after she knocked off smoking and drinking about 20 years ago.

‘‘She brought a lot of people out of the alcohol syndrome they were in, into AA.’’

‘Firewood man’: Elbert de Koning

Raised in the Netherlands, Elbert de Koning was well known as Queenstown’s ‘firewood man’, owning and operating Superior Firewood for about 30 years till closing it down in 2017.

Last year he was presented an ‘unsung hero’ award by Rotary Queenstown for his work with Kelvin Peninsula Community Association and the Wakatipu Wildlife Trust predator
control organisation, which he joined after he retired three years ago.