Speakers celebrate life of cancer campaigner

Blair Vining, the man who spent his last year alive campaigning for better cancer care, was celebrated and mourned yesterday in Invercargill.

About 500 people, many wearing rugby jerseys to acknowledge his passion for the sport, attended his memorial service at Stadium Southland.

The 39-year-old farmer died almost a year after being diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.

A video of Mr Vining showed how he lived his last year to the fullest - he made sure he left loved ones with good and lasting memories.

Shaun Vining delivers a moving and humorous eulogy to his brother at Blair Vining's memorial service at Stadium Southland yesterday. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Shaun Vining delivers a moving and humorous eulogy to his brother at Blair Vining's memorial service at Stadium Southland yesterday. Photos: Gregor Richardson
Lawyer and commentator Garth Gallaway led the ceremony and introduced speakers as they walked to the stage. Each had been given a topic by Mr Vining.

Friends and family told stories and shared memories of Mr Vining.

Oncologist Chris Jackson talked about how the cancer campaign started, and how he and his patient became close during that journey.

''He shared himself with the country, and the country fell in love with him.''

His campaigning inspired a petition signed by 140,000 people that called for better cancer care in New Zealand, and was followed by the Government announcing the establishment of a 10-year cancer plan.

Mr Vining's daughters, Della-May and Lilly, shared their favourite memories of their dad.

A section of the large crowd.
A section of the large crowd.
Della-May said: ''I love looking into your big, beautiful eyes ... that's something I'm going to miss.''

While Mr Vining was not her birth-father, Della-May said she was changing her name to match his.

His wife, Melissa, spoke of how lucky she was to have been married to him, which was the topic he chose for her.

At the end of the service, the casket was carried out by his friends, accompanied by a haka performed by Central Southland College's First XV, which Mr Vining coached.

He is to be buried in Winton, where he lived with his family.

laura.smith@odt.co.nz

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