Farming and rugby communities mourn loss of 'local hero' Paul Renton
The nation's rugby and farming communities are mourning the loss of Paul Renton, who was found dead on his Hawke's Bay farm this week.
Renton, who with his wife Marie were recently announced the 2017 Hawke's Bay Farmer of the Year winners, died on Wednesday morning. His death was not suspicious and has been referred to the coroner.
Known as 'Butch', the 54-year-old Renton was widely known in farming communities. He played rugby at a high level, representing three provinces as well as the NZ Colts and NZ Junior teams, and was the father of Hurricanes player Hugh Renton.
His death has rocked many. A minute's silence will be marked at today's Ranfurly Shield challenge between Canterbury and Mid-Canterbury, for whom Renton played in the mid-80s.
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Renton's family is coming to terms with the tragic loss of a beloved family man, often referred to as a "gentle giant".
His brother-in-law, David Todd said "Paul was a loyal, caring, focused, family man who will be deeply missed".
"He was a popular, highly respected man of the community and a 'friend to a cast of thousands'. His values across rugby, farming and family were strong. He cared passionately about what he did and would always put his family and team first," Todd said.
"He had a gifted talent for rugby and a unique ability to read the game. He was always in the right place at the right time and would always run to where the ball was going to be," he said.
Renton's cousin Brent Paterson said he always gave everything 110 percent and "reached ultimate heights".
"He was a doer, he would always get things done and never let anyone down in the work he did on the farm, on the rugby field and at home. Paul was a high achiever but he never sought the limelight and would be more surprised than anyone to achieve the top award. He was a very humble man and was loved by everyone," Paterson said.
"Paul was very close and loyal to his family - always on the sidelines of his daughter's netball and son's rugby and was incredibly generous with his time," he said.
Renton and Marie had farmed Glenmore at Mangatahi, west of Hastings, since taking over from his parents in 1996. They had just finished their seventh season as a full finishing property after converting from breeding.
The couple won the 2017 Silver Fern Farms Hawke's Bay Farmer of the Year, run by the Hawke's Bay A&P Society, in April. About 300 people attended their winner's field day.
Like the rest of Hawke's Bay, the Rentons were hit by an extreme dry period last summer and a very wet winter.
Renton grew up on Glenmore and worked at home before getting a Diploma of Agriculture from Massey University in 1983. He played for Manawatu while at Massey, and had two seasons playing for the New Zealand Colts.
He went on to play for Mid-Canterbury and New Zealand Juniors rugby while shepherding at Mt Somers Station in Canterbury. After returning home to Glenmore he played four seasons for the Hawke's Bay Magpies.
He married Marie in 1990. They have three children – Elsa, 23, Hugh, 20, and Zana, 16.
The family's farming history goes back five generations to 1859 when Olrig Station's founder, HWP Smith, arrived from Scotland. Through his son Hector and then Hector's daughter Rachel, the Rentons came into ownership of Whanakino in 1946. Part of this became Glenmore, which was farmed by Renton's parents, John and Margaret, from 1960 until 1996 when they retired.
"We're very proud to be farming part of the original Olrig-Whanakino block," Renton said after winning the award.
He said they had done so much in the past 20 years it was time for consolidation.
"We want to keep beautifying the place while still looking for opportunities out there. We just love what we do," he said.