A fond so long to ‘Sheryl from Raglan’

Sheryl Anne Maree Hart

27 January 1955 – 19 March 2020

by Keith Ingram, Professional Skipper Magazine (reprinted with permission)

“I’m Sheryl from Raglan.” –It was a statement made with such confidence that if you did not know her, then it was about time you did.

I first met Sheryl at a New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council meeting in the late 1980s. Here was this feisty young woman ‘from Raglan’ standing up and telling the old guard of recreational delegates the error of their ways.

From that day forward we developed a mutual respect and understanding, and a friendship that would endure some very challenging times to this day.

Sheryl was the first born of Raymond and Colleen Furness, born January 27, 1955 at Snodgrass Rd, Te Puna, Tauranga.

Her parents were sharemilkers. Sheryl recalled her time in Maungatautari, when they were walking the first herd of cows across the lake Karapiro dam, on the proviso that they cleaned up all the shit. At just seven years old she was not overly impressed with her task of cleaning up the shit.

She would be joined by two younger brothers, Peter and Graham. She recalled the time they were being towed on a trailer behind the tractor on the side of the Maungatautari Mountain when the trailer became dislodged and started beating the tractor down the hill! With the three siblings aboard, it was about to go over a big cliff! She said all she could remember was her dad yelling, ‘Jump!’

“We jumped as the trailer plummeted over the bloody bank and down the bloody cliff, from which we would not have survived,” said Sheryl. “Shit that was close, but yeah.”

So she didn’t spend her childhood wrapped in bubble wrap that’s for sure.

Sheryl, Peter, and Graham were quite the rebels and in her story of life there were many tales of what they got up to as children, including, ‘Dynamite’, setting fire to a cow shed (accidentally); stealing potatoes and heading out on the farm to cook chips over a fire they lit on the peat.

“We would all sit down at the back of the farm, gorging ourselves stupid on homemade potato chips and Te Hoe store doughnuts. Yeah it was fun,” she said.

When Sheryl was 15, she met John – at stock cars at Forest lake, Hamilton. This became a place of significance for her. John (being a bit of a petrol head) raced stock cars for a season – which ended up being the very last year stock cars raced there.

John proposed to Sheryl because he got wind of her moving to the South Island to start her ‘apple’ picking career.

“Anyway, I was in the bath at home and he asked me to marry him through the bathroom door. That was quite funny,” she said. “I didn’t know whether to tell him to wait until I got out of the bath, or say yes through the door. I think I might have said yes through the door,” she said.

John and Sheryl got married on April 19, 1975 in the Orini Hall. It was a big day, and there didn’t seem to be a limit to how many people could come.

“We got married in April and I got pregnant in January – beforehand – hahaha. But anyway, we just kept on with the plan and on the day all was right in the world,” said Sheryl.

Sheryl’s and John’s family was complete when their kids Richard and Nicole were born.

They shifted to Hamilton in 1978 and purchased a bit of land in Pukete, and built their first home. This was where Sheryl developed a passion for being involved with committees. She joined the Plunket, kindergarten, and school committees to meet new people – and soon realised it was the same people on each one!

John and Sheryl decided it was time get into business. They found a great little garage in Raglan. They weren’t sure whether they would like Raglan. They put their house on the market, and it sold rather quickly – which left them in the predicament of being homeless until the settlement for the Raglan property went through. They camped in a caravan before moving to Raglan in October 1983.

This started the beginning of the rest of her life. She described it as living in heaven.

Sheryl absolutely loved fishing. They brought a boat and their life on the water out west began. Sheryl, John and her son Richard all shared a huge passion for fishing. This led Sheryl to be involved with the Manu Bay Fishing and Boating Club, Waikato Saltwater Sports Fishing Club and the Raglan Sport Fishing Club as well as being the local marine radio operator and weighmaster. John joined the local Volunteer Fire Brigade, they were both kept active on the wide range of committees and are past presidents, but for the vast majority of time Sheryl was in her element as Secretary/Treasurer and ‘General Workaholic’.

Like she said when we first met, “I’m Sheryl from Raglan”. She was a remarkable woman and her advocacy for better fisheries management was always strong and passionate. She would go on to join the executive of the NZRFC and was unforgiving in her representation of Raglan and the west coast fisheries.

She was an environmentalist in the true and pragmatic form, the Maui dolphins were her dolphins and one could be forgiven for thinking she knew every last surviving dolphin by name.

Sheryl took on the role of Secretary when the late Max Hetherington passed away while in still in office. I have some very fond memories of her in full flight; reading the riot act to all and sundry in officialdom as the occasion demanded.

If such things possibly do happen I am sure she will have found Max by now, and already has him in a corner bending his ear.

When Sheryl found a lump, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After 12 weeks of Chemo and 6 weeks of radiation, she had beaten it. While she took time out for travel, she remained a feared and staunch advocate for Raglan in both fisheries, seabed mining and her treasured dolphins.

Her next battle was going to be her toughest.

Sheryl was diagnosed with a trifecta of cancer in July 2018. This was not going to be a fight that she would win, but she sure did not let it stop her living her best life to the very end.

Yes, Sheryl was a do-gooder, not in the sense of meddling or seeking the lime-light, but in the true sense of wanting to make a difference. She was passionate about Raglan and one tribute described her as “…speaking from the heart, and whether you agreed with her or not, you had to admire her.”

Sheryl also had a great sense of fun and humour, something she never lost, even as her life was slowly being taken away from her.

‘he wahine kaha takoto rangimarie’ RIP Sheryl.

Keith Ingram