Haere ra to a local hero

Last updated 15:18 30/08/2012

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OPINION: Our Wellingtonian of the Year always attracts many nominations from around the office and everyone puts their candidate's case with vigour.

Not so last December. We unanimously named Senior Constable Dean Gifford our Wellingtonian of the Year.

"In our view there is one clear winner of our 2011 Wellingtonian of the Year gong," we said.

"Senior Constable Dean Gifford, who has been battling cancer for more than five years, has devoted much of his life to helping others.

So news of Mr Gifford's death last week was deeply felt by those at in this office. Through putting together the Wellingtonian Interviews column, we are privileged to meet many wonderful people who have have done so much for this city.

Mr Gifford was certainly one them. He endeavoured to brighten the lives of many others, even though he was battling a rare brain tumour.

Children in New Zealand and overseas benefited from his generosity. He often visited Wellington Children's Hospital with a variety of "celebrities", including police dogs. He also sent shipments of toys, clothes and medical supplies to the Solomon Islands.

He told The Wellingtonian seeing young children in hospital, while he was there receiving treatment, put things in perspective.

"They were in the same boat as me but they were only five. Then I started thinking of ways I could help them," Mr Gifford said.

Many of us have had similar thoughts about those less fortunately, but few do anything about it.

But Mr Gifford did.

His generosity was recognised by the wider community. A star-studded charity event in November last year was held in his honour. Sports broadcaster Keith Quinn was MC, actor Phil Vaughan, Sir Colin Meads, Wynton Rufer and Billy Graham attended.

But for Mr Gifford, charity work was never about the recognition. It was about helping others, as it should be.

As a police officer he also went beyond the call of duty.

He was based in Lower Hutt for 14 years and spent the past four in Wellington.

He worked with those recently released from prison, to talk to them and help them set and achieve goals.

It's a tough job, that's for sure.

In 2009 Senior Constable Gifford and his partner arrested a regular Wellington down-and- out, a hopeless alcoholic street- dweller.

At the end of his shift Mr Gifford didn't just clock off and go home to watch television.

He and his partner stayed on after their shift finished and took the man to Wellington Hospital in their own time and in Mr Gifford's private car.

There they persuaded the mental health team to admit the man to hospital and treat him for his addiction.

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At the time he asked us not to report it. We hope he won't mind that we have now.

So often, various All Blacks are held up as heroes, especially by 10-year-old boys, but chasing a ball round a paddock for 80 minutes is hardly heroic.

The true heroes are those who get stuck in and help brighten the lives of others in our community.

Our society is certainly enriched by people such as Mr Gifford.

The loss of Mr Gifford has certainly left Wellington the poorer.

He will be missed.

- The Wellingtonian

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