Waitati marks character’s life with parade

How do you send off the most vibrant, zany, eccentric and compelling person you have ever met?

The question certainly came to the fore when well-loved Waitati resident Bruce Sheppard (72) died last Thursday.

The community’s answer came quickly — with a parade through the town centre of Waitati.

Mr Sheppard was born in 1949 in Taranaki but he lived in Waitati for nearly 50 years.

Waikouaiti Coast Community Board member and Waitati resident Mandy Mayhem-Bullock said the parade was in keeping with Mr Sheppard’s "colourful" character.

She said the former wool classer and horticulturist made music, threw fantastic parties and loved a good explosion.

"His garden was a visual symphony — sculptures, structures and artistic installations, like dummies having tea-parties, people watching TV, or playing piano on his front lawn.

Members of the Waitati community farewell popular resident Bruce Sheppard with a funeral...
Members of the Waitati community farewell popular resident Bruce Sheppard with a funeral procession through the town centre. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
"In later years, his house became known as the Opera House, after his famous Crescendo party.

"It involved a symphony on a roll of wallpaper, an opera singer, a burning piano, chainsaws, lawn mowers, sledgehammers, car horns honking and a gigantic explosion created by igniting two banana boxes jam-packed with contraband Tom Thumb fireworks."

He was a drummer in a pipe band as a youngster and went on to join many folk bands, including The Coast Roaders and Rue de Remarque, and performed frequently at the Dunedin Folk Club, the Whare Flat Festival and other Dunedin venues.

He also established the Waitati Militia Band, and taught and inducted many people into the group.

Yesterday’s funeral procession down Doctors Point Rd was almost as colourful as Mr Sheppard.

It started with an explosion (source unknown) and included drummers, a flag bearer, two Buddhist monks, a vintage tractor which towed his casket on a trailer, followed by the Waitati Militia, members of the community, RSA members, a Land Rover and a pony.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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