Long-serving Catholic priest Father Brian Fenton knew what he
wanted in life, and in death it was no different.
Having spent nearly 15 years trying to win the right to be
buried in the grounds of his Wanaka home, 86-year-old Fr
Brian's wishes for his final resting place were fulfilled
yesterday following his death last weekend.
Fr Brian's niece, Mary-Jane Fenton, of Invercargill, said
correspondence dating back to 1985 related to her uncle
seeking approval for burial on his land.
The places people can be buried are almost always limited by
law to official cemeteries or traditional burial grounds.
However, the Burial and Cremation Act 1964 provides criteria
for applications for burial in a special place, including
evidence of exceptional circumstances, supporting referees,
iwi consultation and site assessments.
With a Queen Elizabeth II open space covenant protecting the
tree arboretum at Fr Brian's home, permission was finally
granted by the Associate Minister of Health in 1999 for his
Fr Brian spent the last months of his life at Dunedin's
Little Sisters of the Poor Sacred Heart Home. But following
his Requiem Mass at Wanaka's Holy Family Church yesterday, he
was returned, just as requested, to his hilltop property
''Arorangi'', to which he had semi-retired in 1999.
His interment was at a spot he selected just metres away from
the house overlooking the property's arboretum and next to
the graves of his Irish setter dogs Jason and Flame and final
companion fox terrier Artemis.
Fr Brian's detailed instructions for his funeral even
extended to the number of shovels to be provided for his
friends, family and the large group of Dunedin Catholic
Diocese and visiting clergy to fill in his grave.
He arranged for his coffin to be made years ago out of a tree
on his property by parishioner Mike Cotter, and requested
''sufficient whisky (single malt) be supplied to those at the
graveside, to drink a prayerful toast to my journey into
Just as Fr Brian had firm ideas on how things should happen
after his death, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dunedin, the
Most Rev Colin Campbell, remembered him as having strong
views on all range of matters throughout his life, too.
''Whether there were local issues or worldwide ones you could
always count on Brian to have an opinion or his say about
His outspoken defence of Wanaka's Pembroke Park regarding a
proposal to turn part of the reserve into car parking was one
of many examples of him standing up for what he believed in.
Fr Brian's nieces said their uncle would have been delighted
with his farewell.
''He had a lot of ideas about what his funeral would be like
and he thought about it and certainly let those closest and
dearest to him know his wishes ... he'd be loving it,''
Sydney-based Sarah Fenton said.
The Arorangi Arboretum Trust would ensure the property
continued to be enjoyed by Fr Brian's family, friends, clergy
and parish, Mary-Jane Fenton said.
Fr Brian's family approved the Otago Daily Times
recording the burial.
An obituary will follow.