Vern Mardon was in Kaiteriteri relaxing when he first heard that one of his dear friends had just had a stroke.
It came only a few months after the death of a close friend, and he started to think that maybe he should be slowing down. Vern came to Nelson in 1977 to work as a branch manager for an insurance company before setting out on his own.
But on that Kaiteri day he turned to his wife and said: “I think I need to stop. Life is too short.”
So soon they will be heading off in their caravan to explore the country. It will mark the end of an era for Vern, who has also been intimately involved with athletics in Nelson for many years.
He helped fundraise for the Saxton athletics track, the pavilion and the indoor cricket centre.
That passion for sport started at secondary school in Taranaki. His claim to fame is being the first student to win the two long distance events at the local school champs.
“Athletics has always been my sport,” he says. “I love the competitiveness of it.”
But when he left school he was unsure what to do. So he studied chemistry and ended up dropping out.
“I was concentrating too much on running and just chose the wrong subjects.”
He applied for a job at some banks but got rejected. Then he applied to some insurance companies and got a job before becoming an adviser.
“Sometimes life just happens, and it has been so good to me. I have loved it, absolutely loved the industry. It’s a passion I’ve always had.”
Now he is known as “the granddad” of the insurance industry in Nelson.
“What a good adviser does is take over, so the stress goes completely off the client. If I put something in place for you it has to work exactly right down the track. Because if I haven’t done it right then it’s too late.”
Now he is handing over the last of his 100 clients to local adviser Mark Sheehan, whom Vern has nothing but praise for.
“He is a really great guy.”
Vern’s ability to build lasting relationships saw him build up a network of loyal clients whom he treated to a night out last month.
“It was an evening to say, ‘thank you for giving me the pleasure of being able to work with you’. It was so humbling. It was an evening I will never forget.”
But now it is planning a travel itinerary that will take up Vern’s time. He is especially excited about heading towards Dunedin to check out the albatrosses and penguins.
“I’ve just been really lucky,” he says.