Caring cop succumbs to brain tumour
Right up to the end, Senior Constable Dean Gifford was smiling.
The tireless charity worker, Wellingtonion of the Year finalist and family man died yesterday morning from a brain tumour that he had fought for more than five years. He was 41.
Growing up in Berhampore, Mr Gifford was a talented rugby player, having played for Ories, Wellington, Old Boys-University, Marist-St Pat's and Petone Police.
He also briefly represented Nelson Bays and Wairarapa-Bush, with a highlight being playing against Manu Samoa.
Mr Gifford's cousin Carl described him as a "beautiful guy", soft and caring, who had a tremendous love for his family. Right up to the end, he hung on to his amazing personality.
"One of the last memories of Dean I have is in the last few days, he couldn't talk but he gave me a beautiful great big smile.
Mr Gifford was found to have a tumour in 2006, when he became ill after a rugby match. An operation to cut out some of the cancer and an intensive round of chemotherapy seemed to have worked, but in May last year the tumour returned even larger.
But his predicament had a silver lining as it was while in hospital the first time that Mr Gifford's life changed when he popped over to the children's ward.
Struck by boys and girls who were only beginning their lives but were in the same situation as him, he began visiting the ward regularly, bringing along All Blacks organised through his friend Conrad Smith, police dogs and the national dive squad.
It was a natural extension of charitable work he had begun with impoverished children in the Solomon Islands in 2004.
After being shown a photograph by a colleague stationed in the islands, Mr Gifford began collecting donations, but that soon morphed into something much bigger.
He began approaching companies such as Hasbro Toys and Rebel Sport and the idea snowballed. Over the years about 7 tonnes of toys, sports equipment and health products have been sent to the Solomons.
His years of charity work earned Mr Gifford a place as a finalist at last year's Wellingtonion of the Year awards.
Detective Inspector Darrin Thomson said: "From a personal point of view, I don't think any kid could aspire to be anything more than Dean Gifford."
Mr Gifford enrolled at police college in 1994 and went to work in the front line in Lower Hutt. After a spell with the tactical response group, he moved to covert operations in Wellington before becoming an intelligence officer in 2010.
He is survived by wife Penny and children Carter, 7, and Riley, 5.
The Dominion Post