Widespread praise pours in for ‘selfless’ community advocate

Tributes poured in this week for longtime Raglan West resident Bob McLeod, an “all round good bugga” whose death at the weekend has been described as leaving a chasm in the community he served for almost two decades.

It was going on 20 years ago now that Bob returned from Wellington to his hometown – all up he was to live in two neighbouring Opotoru Rd houses for more than 60 years – and cast his net wide for useful ways he could contribute to Raglan’s welfare. 

While this telecommunications engineer ostensibly retired here, Bob was driven by a strong sense of community which saw him immediately transfer his Lions club membership to the local chapter and also sign up to become a volunteer firefighter like his father – Raglan’s chief fire officer in the 1980s – before him.

So began a lengthy record of community service that, – along the way, earned him Volunteering Waikato’s 2013 award for volunteer of the year. He was lauded then as he is now for his dedication to the Raglan community, and an ability to bring together people and organisations.

From the outset Bob carried on the work done by what he called the town’s “forefathers”, who had worked hard to establish many of the community’s long-standing amenities.

Local Lions stalwart Wendy Coxhead told the Chronicle it was not just a hole but a chasm the 71 year old had left in the community. “He was by far our most successful president ever,” she said in a tribute on behalf of the 40-year-old local service club. “He lifted us up … he put us on the map.”

Bob’s also been called out to fight innumerable fires over the decades, regularly earning silver bars on the ribbon of his silver medal for ongoing service to the local brigade.

But many locals will remember Bob best for his work on the Raglan Community Board. Bob served for some years as chairman, and at the time of his death was deputy chair.

His passion for the town and his advocacy for a community voice on Waikato District Council have been applauded.

In fact – as both current Raglan district councillor Lisa Thomson and her predecessor Clint Baddeley have remarked in recent days – Bob was one of very few Raglan residents who took the time to regularly attend council workshops and meetings over the divvy in Ngāruawāhia. 

He also often ended up chatting and joking in the councillors’ room over morning teas or lunch breaks, all the while subtly advocating for Raglan’s interests.

Such was Bob’s commitment, says Lisa, he was actually considered a councillor by many.  He will be missed not only by councillors and staff but also by other members of community boards across New Zealand. 

“He was passionate, hardworking, selfless and had a cheeky sense of humour,” she adds.

Bob was very proud of his Scottish heritage, often donning a kilt and leading the Raglan Pipe Band up and down Bow St in the town’s annual New Year’s Eve parades which were organised – appropriately enough – by the local Lions club. 

He also contributed to the town’s welfare in myriad other directions: to civil defence, the night patrols, the Karioi Classic, as a driver of the community van, as a committee member for Raglan Community House and as a board member for Raglan Holiday Park Papahua, the Raglan Naturally community plan, Raglan iHub and the Whāingaroa Raglan Affordable Housing Project.

“He absolutely loved this community,” was the post that perhaps best summed up Bob on Raglan Notice Board on Monday morning. 

In the New Zealand Herald, meanwhile, an obit placed by family described him simply as “an all round good bugga”. 

Bob leaves behind his wife of 10 years, Genny Wilson – a business resilience and risk advisor at Waipa District Council, fellow Lions Club member and community stalwart.

A memorial service for Bob will be organised in the future.

RIP Bob McLeod.

Edith Symes