Miroslav Tvaroh was so in love with his adopted home country he convinced his childhood sweetheart to move here and love it as well.
But the life he shared with his partner, Simona Vokralova, in their Wairarapa "paradise" of Greytown came to a tragic end when he disappeared on Christmas Eve.
A body, believed to be that of the 34-year-old Greytown man, was discovered at the bottom of Castle Rock, just south of the coastal town of Castlepoint, about 7.45am yesterday, ending an extensive search.
Police believe he fell about 160 metres from Castle Rock.
The body has not been formally identified but Tvaroh's family in the Czech Republic has been informed and the search for him had been called off.
Close friend Phil Keinzley said he was in total shock that Tvaroh was gone, especially as his life was going so well.
After moving here from the Czech Republic in 2005, Tvaroh had finally found plenty of work as a football coach, he was weeks away from becoming a permanent resident, and he was happily settled with Vokralova, who moved here two years ago.
Tvaroh and Vokralova had known each other since they were children and she was devastated by his death, Keinzley said.
"He brainwashed her into loving New Zealand the same way he did, he taught her to surf so they could do it together...they weren't married but they were going down that track," he said.
"Anybody could see they were the perfect couple, she was just 100 per cent devoted to him, so this has come as a huge shock."
Keinzley said he was also feeling the loss of his friend.
Tvaroh was a regular player in the Wairarapa United first-grade football team and won the prized Chatham Cup with them in 2011.
He had also coached the club's second-grade side and was put in charge of its newly-formed under-20s team only a few months ago.
He had previously travelled the world and represented his native Czech Republic in Futsal, a type football played on a smaller pitch and mainly indoors.
Keinzley said Tvaroh considered New Zealand to be a paradise compared to the rest of the world and would scoff whenever people complained about the weather.
A funeral service would be held for Tvaroh but the date depended on whether his parents could fly over from the Czech Republic, Keinzley said.
"They're totally in shock."
- The Dominion Post