Sunday, 18 March 2012

Eulogy (Ron Paterson)

Andrew Pullan
Euology by Ron Paterson, 13 March 2012

Fakalofa lahi atu. Nga mihi mahana, ki a koutu katoa. Warm greetings to you all.

Andrew was my friend. We met around 1990, after he joined the Department of Engineering Science as a lecturer, when his colleague Andy Philpott asked Andrew to come for a run with us. So began a wonderful friendship.

I’ve been asked to do two things today: provide a sketch of Andrew’s life – his colleague Mike O’Sullivan and family will fill in some of the details – and tell you a wee bit about my friend.

Andrew was one of a kind. All of us who knew him were struck by his boundless enthusiasm and energy, the high standards he set himself, in work and fitness, his devotion to Patti and joy in Zeke and Xanthe, and his pride in their lovely home in Epsom (which managed to withstand his excessive basement excavations).

Andrew grew up in the family home in Massey Road, Mangere. He was the second of six children in a very close family. Andrew went to Robertson Road primary school and Mangere Intermediate, and to high school at Aorere College, where he cemented a family tradition of finishing as Dux. It was at Aorere College that Andrew met the love of his life, Patti.

Andrew was always very proud of his South Auckland roots. When he discovered that there was no cup for Dux at Aorere College, he immediately sought to remedy the situation, and Patti was dispatched to find a very large cup, the Pullan Cup for Dux, which Andrew himself took pride in awarding each year. Andrew would be touched by the presence here today of Aorere College staff and students.

Andrew excelled at University, living in a small caravan in the family’s backyard. I asked him a few months ago, “Did you really get all A+s in your Maths degree?” His face lit up, “Yes”, he said, and proceeded to give me all the details. Andrew fulfilled his early promise with rapid promotion to Professor and his pioneering work in biomedical engineering. He was fascinated with the human body and loved thinking about anatomy and physiology. And he loved to push his own body to the limit, in runs, on his bike, and in the gym – at Les Mills and later in his basement. Andrew did nothing by halves.

Andrew was a stickler for detail. He was also a man of firm and sometimes quirky views. He seldom saw shades of grey. He loved to bait me, on the subject of lawyers, but actually on any topic. I found him very funny. He would always come out with an unpredictable comment. He was the first visitor to our seaside home at Kawakawa Bay. He walked up the driveway (with Patti overdue with Zeke, who arrived 5 days later), and said: “Ron, Ron, Ron, what have you done? You can’t even look after a tiny section in Devonport. You’ll never manage this!”

Andrew and Patti loved to come out to Kawakawa Bay. Sometimes Andrew would bike the 62km from the city. Often he would phone ahead with his food orders. My partner Greg is a great cook, and Andrew loved his food. “Tell Greg I’d like that onion tart and the lemon dessert”, he would say. Only Andrew could do this and make you want to oblige. He and Greg went to Nepal for nearly 3 weeks in March last year. They had a wonderful time. When they got back, Andrew said to me, “I could never travel with you. But Greg was a great travelling companion!”

Andrew was a perfectionist. He could get very frustrated when he felt things weren’t being done properly, like the University’s webpage. He would phone me up on a Saturday morning and regale me with the latest obstacle to be overcome. I tried to coach him, and in his years as Head of Department he began to develop some patience – but he never quite learnt not to press “reply all” on his emails!

Many of Andrew’s former students are here today. He loved to inspire you with his ideas and excite you with his enthusiasm. I’m told that summer or winter, he would always lecture in his shorts. Andrew was never one for unnecessary formality. When he was appointed as Vice-Chancellor’s representative on the Auckland Grammar School board, he loved turning up in his shorts to meet with all the suited QCs and businessmen.

Andrew packed so much into his 48 years. He travelled all over the world to conferences, and planned elaborate trips when Patti and the kids would accompany him, as you will have seen from the slideshow. In truth, Andrew found flying a bit of a hassle, but he knew the importance of research collaborations, and he wanted to show his family the world. He was never happier than when he was home at 32 Maungawhau Road, or down at the mountain skiing with Zeke, or watching Zeke’s rowing regattas, or at a school event for Xanthe. Family always came first for Andrew.

Andrew was a University man through and through. It is fitting that he is farewelled today at the Maclaurin Chapel, at the heart of this University that he loved so much. Andrew turned to his network of University colleagues to help find the best treatment, and he was proud to be “NZ1”, the first New Zealander to receive the new Braf inhibitor, which gave him an extra 6 months, thanks to his good friend Julie Maxton and her Oxford connections. His GP Brent Maxwell from Student Health has cared for Andrew throughout his illness. It was Andrew’s departmental colleagues – Rosalind Archer, Dave Ryan, Mike O’Sullivan and Andy Philpott – who set up the trust to raise money for Andrew and Patti and family. He was so grateful for everyone’s help, and got a real kick out of the student bake-off to raise funds for the Pullan Trust.

Andrew and Patti wanted me to thank you all for the support that has meant so much to them both over the past 9 months. Andrew has had a very hard road to walk, but his determination, humanity, integrity, and great interest in others stayed with him to the end.

Andrew, your spirited energy and zest for life will continue to inspire us all. Thank you for the joy you’ve brought to our lives.

Thank you for being such a wonderful friend.

God Bless you mate.


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