War veteran Harcourt 'Bunty' Bunt mourned in Marlborough
A World War II Spitfire pilot who became Marlborough's favourite tour guide has died, with a memorial service to be held in his honour.
Harcourt "Bunty" Bunt died peacefully at Maxwell Care Home on Monday after two strokes and ill health earlier this year.
The war veteran was renowned for his work as the animated and friendly tour guide at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, guiding celebrity visitors and becoming a bit of a celebrity himself.
Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre chief executive Jane Orphan said Bunty was self-appointed "chief agitator" until the centre was built, a keen supporter of the centre and tour guide from the beginning.
He was featured in newspapers and on television, and even guided the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their royal visit in 2014.
Such was his fame, Bunty was often called in on his days off to guide people who knew him or had heard of him, Orphan said.
"As his celebrity grew, members of the media would call up for an interview, but Bunty always asked for our approval first. 'If you think it's good for the museum, then I'll do it', he would say."
The centre's visitors' book recorded praise from visitors across the globe, who wrote it was an "absolute privilege" to meet Bunty.
Spitfires were his favourite aircraft, and Bunty was thrilled when Zambian man Murray Miers loaned his Mk. XIV Spitfire to the centre for the WWII exhibition 'Dangerous Skies'.
"We always hoped we could attract one of these iconic aircraft to Omaka while Bunty was still with us to enjoy it," Orphan said.
"Whenever Bunty was on duty, he would take special groups over to see his favourite aeroplane."
He would be greatly missed by all his friends at Omaka, she said.
His son David Bunt said Bunty was involved in so many community groups, and the condolence messages were coming from all over Marlborough.
"Everyone has got memories about him. Some remember his flying days. He was responsible for setting up the neighbourhood watch in Picton, he worked with them nearly every day," Bunt said.
"He was involved with rugby union, and he was involved heavily with the RSA in Picton, and the Anglican church, he was on the vestry. He's been so involved with the community, he even got a civic award."
Bunty was also a devoted father, "dropping everything" to cheer for Bunt and his brother Ian from the sidelines in their various sporting pursuits.
"As long as we enjoyed what we were doing, he was happy. He always had time for us."
His wife Lorna died in 1993, but he was independent almost to the end, and his death came as a shock, Bunt said.
Bunty died aged 96.
A memorial service will be held at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, at 1pm on Monday, August 14.
- The Marlborough Express