Bernard Teahan on his appointment for the second time as chief executive of Trust House in 2007. PHOTO/FILE

Bernard Joseph Teahan

November 1, 1946 – May 9, 2019

Bernard Teahan could take a lot of credit for making Trust House what it is today, a successful community-owned business with $100 million in assets.

He could have taken a lot of credit, but he wouldn’t have wanted to do it.

Bernard wasn’t a man who sought personal glory, and had to be persuaded he was the right man for the job when first approached to run what began as the Masterton Licensing Trust and subsequently became Trust House.

Many in the community will remember a man who was the longest serving chief executive Trust House has had, firstly from 1978-2001, and then from 2007-13. His family – wife Lynette, and children Kim, Aaron, Corey and Gareth, and 11 grandchildren – knew someone with more strings to his bow.

Eulogies from family members at his funeral last week highlighted his focus on family, and his athletic past.

But running through their stories was also his commitment to building communities and a belief in community-owned organisations.

The publication, A Turbulent Decade, produced to mark Trust House activities from 1997-2007, after Bernard’s return to the chief executive’s role, tells the story of how in 1998, the opportunity arose for community-owned organisations to buy some of New Zealand’s state housing stock.

But there was little time to act, with the ailing National government heading to defeat in the upcoming general election.

Bernard’s business acumen is epitomised by the purchase in 1999 of 541 houses for $10.5 million.

“A price was arrived at by seriously discounting the government’s initial offer [itself lower than expected].”

His son Gareth recalls that he initially didn’t feel he was the right man to run the licensing trust.

“In the end his decision to do the job was from the belief that he was needed to serve the community.”

There were tough problems to deal with, including issues with gangs in Masterton pubs.

Bernard’s solution was to meet gang leaders face-to-face in the carpark of one of the premises.

“Back then, Dad had a number of wardrobe options open to him depending on the level of meeting.

“It was a decision between the suit with the striped tie or the suit with the solid-colour tie.

“I’m sure the picture of a suit-wearing businessman, with the physique of a runner, meeting with gang leaders would make a great start for one of his favourite Footrot Flats cartoons.

“And yet meet them he did, and demand of them greater care and respect for the community.”

Bernard was born in Masterton, the second of 11 children, with running in the family’s blood.

He went on to become a Wairarapa cross-country champion and throughout his career used running, and latterly cycling when he could no longer run, as a method of clearing his head after a
day’s work.

His wife of 49 years, Lynette, recalled his habit of parking the car on the way home, so he could run in the country.

“On one occasion he cleared his head so well that he arrived home, without the car, and then had to run back and get it.”

At the time of his death he was writing a history of the Masterton Harriers Club, the first chapter going some way to explain his passion for running.

“Running has gifted me, and I believe many, many others, some truly magic moments. I can remember when a difficult work problem often weighed me down. At the beginning of a run in the twilight I mentally resolved to forget it for a while. By the end of the run, my subconscious had found a solution that proved effective.”

His annual cycle races with son Corey continued until his death and were the stuff of family legend – as were the debates over the details of the handicapping system that would apply.

Corey and his brother Aaron live in Sweden and Bernard and Lynette would make yearly visits to check on progress of the northern hemisphere grandchildren and their parents.

Bernard had a life-long passion for education, completing two Master’s degrees and a PhD, for which he spent five years studying community-owned businesses and their role throughout the world.

In 2017, his book A Great Social Experiment: The Story of the Licensing Trusts in New Zealand was published.

Together with his daughter, Kim, he had a continuing drive to improve the education of the younger generation. He was heavily involved in both St Patrick’s School and Chanel College where the focus was to improve the environment for both pupils and teachers alike.

Trust House chief executive Allan Pollard said there was no doubt Bernard would have succeeded in business in the private sector.

“He loved Wairarapa and he was a great believer in community ownership of certain types of businesses and the benefit that could bring to the community.

“That is where he wanted to utilise the great skills he had.”

Pollard was another to highlight Bernard’s humble nature.

“He was someone who loved to see other people doing well.”