Couple’s happy occasion replaced by sad one

Jemma Barltrop and Siale Tunoka shelved their wedding because of Covid-19. Tomorrow,  at their...
Jemma Barltrop and Siale Tunoka shelved their wedding because of Covid-19. Tomorrow, at their Waldronville home, where the ceremony would have been, they will hold a memorial service for Ms Barltrop's father, John Mudie, who died at the end of last month. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O’CONNOR
Jemma Barltrop will host a celebration at her home near Dunedin tomorrow, but it is much different from the occasion she had expected to host there.

Instead of getting ready for her wedding, which she and fiance Siale Tunoka shelved when the threat of Covid-19 loomed, she is preparing for a memorial service for her late father, John Mudie.

Ms Barltrop said the service would be a celebration of her father’s life. He died on May 29 and tomorrow would have been his 77th birthday.

John Mudie
John Mudie

The service will be on the lawn at the Waldronville property where the couple’s wedding ceremony would have taken place.

The cake and alcohol that would have been served, the outfits their children would have worn and even the celebrant who would have performed the ceremony will be redeployed for the memorial service.

Ms Barltrop (45) reflected that she had gone from anticipating one of the happiest of occasions to ... one of the saddest, Mr Tunoka (39) said, finishing her sentence.

But they are relieved they called off the wedding.

They had scheduled it for March 21, the same date that a wedding went ahead in Bluff, giving rise to a cluster of Covid-19 cases.

The couple learned later that two of their invited guests contracted Covid-19. Their event, which would have involved 150 guests from places such as Fiji, Australia, Christchurch and Auckland, could easily have turned into a Covid cluster.

"We had a bad feeling about it," Ms Barltrop said.

Just two days out from the event, they called it off.

The weather on the planned big day turned out to be miserable, "mirroring how we felt", Mr Tunoka said. Family from Fiji were at least able to share kava and get out the guitar.

The couple have not turned their thoughts to a new date. Their focus has been on Mr Mudie.

The Waldronville home belonged to Ms Barltrop’s parents and she returned to live there after her mother, Alison Mudie, died in 2014.

Mr Mudie was involved in horse racing for 40 years as a TAB agent and secretary of the Oamaru, Kurow and Waikouaiti harness racing clubs. His daughter took over his duties.

A few weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown, Mr Mudie’s health deteriorated. He had brain cancer and needed hospital-level care. He spent his final weeks at home.

Mr Tunoka said eating pizza with Mr Mudie and watching his favourite television shows were treasured experiences from the lockdown.

The Taieri College teacher recalled he had previously been watching rugby on TV with Mr Mudie when he asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

"He got emotional about it," Mr Tunoka said.

The couple, both married previously, have four children between them.

Celebrant Edie Pont will run the memorial service.

Mr Mudie’s body was donated to the University of Otago Medical School.


Add a Comment