Hero's last words of love

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2012
Robyn Jourdain and sister Sue Armstrong
ROBERT CHARLES/ Fairfax NZ
LOSS: Sue Armstrong comforts sister Robyn Jourdain, wife of Bryce Jourdain - the missing Topec instructor.

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"Darling you mean everything to me, see you tonight."

Those were the last words Bryce Jourdain said to his wife Robyn before he set off to work on Wednesday morning.

Mr Jourdain is one of three people missing since Wednesday, presumed drowned, when a rock climbing expedition on Paritutu went horribly wrong.

Mr Jourdain, a 42-year-old Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre instructor jumped into the water to try to save Spotswood College students Stephen Lewis Kahukaka-Gedye, 17, of New Plymouth, and Joao Felipe Martins De Melo, known as Felipe Melo, 17, of Brazil.

The search for the missing trio will be scaled down today, with weather and sea conditions expected to worsen over the weekend.

In an emotion-charged appearance at a press conference yesterday, Mrs Jourdain spoke of her last moments with her heroic husband.

The last thing they did was watch Nick Willis' 1500m Olympic race.

"It was the morning of Nick Willis running, so that was exciting that morning," she said.

"We just said goodbye as we usually do but actually he did say to me, which is very uncanny, he said: 'Darling you mean everything to me, see you tonight'."

Dozen of journalists had gathered at the press conference to hear Mrs Jourdain's quietly spoken and moving recollections of her best friend.

Her sister, Sue Armstrong, held her hand and comforted her as she spoke of her husband and the warm welcome they received since moving to New Plymouth 18 months ago.

Mrs Jourdain answered several questions before asking to leave because she wasn't feeling well.

She was embraced by Ms Armstrong and tears flowed as the pair quickly left to return to the Jourdains' two young children.

The couple met in Auckland and married nearly 18 years ago.

They have two children, Isaac, 12 and Grace, 9.

Earlier yesterday, Felipe Melo's father was still clinging to hope his son was safe and well and begged authorities not to stop searching.

Speaking to the Taranaki Daily News from Fortaleza, Brazil, Celio Melo said Felipe was a brave boy, physically fit and a good swimmer, which was why he still held such high hopes.

It was a tough time for the family having things unfold from so far away, he said.

He and his wife were at home with their other son and their daughter was flying back from Europe to be with them.

Friends and family had also held a candlelit vigil in Brazil.

His brother and brother-in-law were due to arrive in New Zealand yesterday.

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He believed the authorities were doing the best job they could.

And Bruce Gedye, father of Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye, released a short statement thanking all those involved in the search.

"We are hearing stories of people who are using their own boats and canoes to search," he said.

"So many people are asking how they can help, including people we don't even know.

"Your kindness is hugely appreciated."

He also thanked everyone who turned out to Thursday night's candlelight vigil, Spotswood College pupils and staff and volunteers and emergency service personnel continuing to search.

"Please keep trying and let's hope we can bring Stephen, Felipe and Bryce home."

Eighteen months ago the Jourdain family left Whangarei when Mr Jourdain accepted a job as Topec instructor.

"We could not believe when we first moved to New Plymouth, complete strangers we would meet and they would say: ‘Welcome to Taranaki'.

"It's incredible the sense of pride in this beautiful place," she said.

"Bryce was very quickly becoming ‘Taranaki hardcore'."

She said he recently updated the screen saver on the family computer at home.

It read: ‘Stop trying to fit in when you were born to stand out'.

"This is such a fitting statement for such an amazing husband, dad, son, brother, friend and workmate," Mrs Jourdain said. "Bryce you are my rock, we love you."

The 42-year-old instructor loved the outdoors and had recently told his wife everyday was about the students he taught.

"He is passionate about seeing young people be the very best they can be," she said.

"Always encouraging them to just be themselves and stay true to who they are."

Mr Jourdain was born in Papua New Guinea to his missionary parents David and Ursula.

He has two sisters Delwyn and Joanne and a brother, Craig.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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