He didn't quite complete his bucket list, but Darrell Cottle accomplished something much more important before he died.
The birth of his son Kyan, now 2 , was the most special moment in Mr Cottle's life, his father, Tony, said yesterday.
The Taupo man succumbed to melanoma this week, after a seven-year fight.
The furniture salesman and race car enthusiast lived long enough to celebrate his 39th birthday last week with wife Bronwyn and Kyan, who wasn't around when his dad first drew up his "bucket list" in 2005, when he was told he had only two years to live.
"Having the baby and being able to enjoy experiences with his son was the best."
"Darrell's face would just light up when he was with Kyan," sister Joy said.
His mother, Pauline, added that the pair had a "spiritual connection".
"In the last two weeks, when Darrell was getting sick, they became really close.
"Kyan had begun a book he called Daddy and Me, which he was filling with photos of him and Darrell. He is a special little boy."
Marrying partner Bronwyn was top of his bucket list, and yesterday she said Kyan had meant everything to her husband.
"It's very hard to talk about Darrell at the moment," she said. "He was a special man and very much loved."
There were 14 items on his original bucket list, including a V8 lap with Craig Lowndes and skydiving above Lake Taupo. By the time he died, he had done all but three: swimming with sharks, blokarting (a type of land yacht), and putting the finishing touches to his prized 1996 Nissan Skyline.
He used the car as part of a campaign to highlight awareness of melanoma, telling pupils at various schools around the upper North Island that the disease could affect anyone, and it was a myth that only fair-skinned people were susceptible.
"If he saw anyone walking around in the hot sun without a hat on, he would go and tell them to cover up," Joy said. "He was always doing as much as he could to get the message out."
Over the course of his illness, Mr Cottle joined two drug trials, but both left him with unwanted side-effects. For the past year, he was on no medication except morphine, his father said.
He remained positive right up to his death. "He was a very protective man. He never wanted people to see his pain and see how scared he was. Even last Sunday, when he was told by his doctor his time was up, he replied, ‘No way, I'm not ready to go yet, I've got my sister's wedding to go to in March'."
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