Benefactor loses battle with cancer
A man whose generosity touched the lives of thousands of Hawke’s Bay people died today after a long battle with cancer.
Peter Harris, who was in his early 70s, carried on a family tradition of philanthropy quietly to help many Hawke’s Bay organisations and individuals.
His help ranged from thousands of dollars to large community organisations to a “few extra dollars” for ordinary Hawke’s Bay people who needed some help. No one, not even Mr Harris, could put a figure on the amount of money he gave away over the years.
His support for ordinary Hawke’s Bay people ranged from buying the oranges and soft drinks for many school teams to buying some new toys, paying for a holiday and giving some cash for a family which became the victim of an unpleasant crime.
Mr Harris had “spies” everywhere – friends he’d asked to let him know of people having a hard time through no fault of their own. His help was discreet and his generosity was mostly unheralded. One friend recalled how he had approached Mr Harris, relaxing in his club, about some support for a group of young people planning a sports trip.
“Peter didn’t hesitate. He put his hand in his pocket and immediately produced $150. Then a short time later he came back to me and said he didn’t have enough for a drink and could he borrow $20 back for a day or two.
Interested in flying, rugby, golf and the performing arts, Mr Harris helped in all those fields and many others. Those closely associated with him say they will remember his generosity, sense of humour, love of family, approachability, down-to-earth manner and strong commitment to Napier and Hawke’s Bay.
Mr Harris was a son of Sir Lewis and Lady Harris, of Brooklands Station, and he farmed Mangatutu Station, Puketitiri, which was sold about two years ago. He went to Napier Boys’ High School and played wing of the Old Boys’ senior rugby team. He was a former president and a life member of the Napier High School Old Boys-Marist Club and took part in working bees to build the clubrooms in Latham St.
He was patron of the Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union, following in the footsteps of his father after whom the Harris Stand in McLean Park was named. He was also a former president of the Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union. With another private donor, he contributed to the cost of the park’s electronic scoreboard.
A keen aviator, he loaned his Tiger Moth to the Napier Aero Club for tourist flights, displays and to promote the Art Deco weekend. He was club patron for several decades.
A love of music led to his sponsorship of the Napier Performing Arts Competition Society, Easter Festival, through which he developed a particular interest in opera. One of the festival events, the Peter and May Harris Aria, was named after Mr Harris and his wife.
Mr Harris was a member of the Napier Cosmopolitan Club for 46 years and of the club’s Centennial Trust, which distributes funds to the community, for 21 years. Club manager Neil Thomson said his great contribution was recognised with life membership.
Several years ago Mr Harris was made a life member of the Taradale Club. He was a foundation member. Mr Harris was a member of the Maraenui Golf Club since 1967 to establish the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Mr Harris was chairman for about 10 years. Former secretary Ray Arnold said he gave his time and made machinery available to the hospital, which has since been sold to Southern Cross.
Mr Harris is survived by his wife, May, four children and nine grandchildren.
The funeral will be at All Saints’ Church, Taradale, at noon on Wednesday.
Photo caption – Mr Harris