Missy Hearfield of Esposito EyeSite, with the 80 year old practicing certificate of Robert Barnes which she discovered while updating her and owner Neil Esposito’s practicing certificates earlier this month. Photo: Kate Russell.

Optometrist certificate found 80 years on


A rare find at Nelson’s longest-established optometry practice has brought up some memories – way back from 1938.

Missy Hearfield, who is an optical dispenser at Esposito EyeSite on Hardy St, was updating her and owner Neil Esposito’s practicing certificates earlier this month, when she came across the hidden certificate of the previous owner of the practice – Robert Barnes.

Dated 1938 and in ‘pristine’ condition, it was sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard in the frame.

“Neil normally changes it over, but he just didn’t see it there all these years,” says Missy.

Robert Barnes, who was known to many as Bob Barnes, came to Nelson from Wellington and set up practice at the same location, at 210 Hardy St.

He ran the practice, which was known back then as Barry and Sargent Opticians, until 1982, which was when Neil took over, due to Bob becoming unwell and passing away in 1983.

Neil has now been there for 35 years, keeping the 80 year old independent history of the practice alive.

Neil doesn’t have too many memories of Bob, but says “he was a good, hardworking man who liked a few drinks.”

He says Bob used to regularly make trips over to Takaka to see patients who didn’t have access to an optometrist.

“Bob would make the three hour trip over the hill, and stay the night in the pub over there,” says Neil.

It is a tradition that Neil has kept up to this day – he even uses some of the same equipment Bob used – except he sees his patients at the Golden Bay Motel, not the pub.

Missy says she sent Bob’s practicing certificate away to the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board of New Zealand to see if they had any information about him.

“Unfortunately, they had nothing else on him,” says Missy. “But the lady at the board said ‘wow, what a cool find’.”

Missy says they would love to find out more about Bob, and welcomes people to share their stories about him.