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A fond farewell for one of our finest

Masterton RSA president Bob Hill is remembered by his wife Catherine. PHOTO/HELEN HOLT

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Masterton RSA president, and the national vice-president Bob Hill died last Tuesday, aged 79.

He moved to Masterton with his wife Catherine in 2004, and two years later joined the Masterton RSA, where he held president and vice-president positions.

He joined the New Zealand RSA board in 2011, where he was vice-president until he died.

New Zealand RSA president BJ Clark said he was a true gentleman.

“He was such a respectful guy. When he met you, he’d make you feel honoured.

“Most of all, he loved his family. His biggest concern was his wife Cath, and his family.”

Clark said he was a great person to have by his side.

“He was a person who held veteran welfare at the front of his mind. He believed veterans’ health needs should have no question.

“His greatest asset was his loyalty – that made my life as president. He always put others first.”

His wife Catherine Hill said despite moving to Masterton later in his life, he “won the region over”.

“This is my hometown, but he made his mark here, truly.”

His granddaughter Alexandria McGrath said he knew someone wherever he went.

“You wouldn’t want to walk down the main street with him.”

He had many interests, including half-marathons and golf.

He was an award-winning drum major for the Whakatane Pipe Band in his youth. He served in the army for 21 years, and retired as a 1st class warrant officer.

He ticked the Sky Tower jump off his bucket list when he was 73.

Masterton RSA President Bob Hill lays a red poppy at the Armistice Day service at Queen Elizabeth Park. PHOTO/FILE

The Masterton Anzac Day commemorations was his final contribution to the RSA.

His wife Catherine said he organised it right up until he was admitted into hospital.

“He basically did the whole programme, two weeks before he died.”

Bob received many awards for his contributions to the local and national RSA, including New Zealander of the Year – local hero award, and a Gold Star Badge.

Catherine said he never did anything just for the medal.

“He was never about the reward, just the enjoyment.”

Bob fought many battles in the army, but his biggest battle was cancer.

He was diagnosed with melanoma in 2014, with four months to live.

However, he was put on a clinical trial for Keytruda, and was the first in New Zealand to get the “all clear” from the drug.

“Surviving the cancer, it gave him a new lease for life.”

He protested at Parliament for the drug to be subsidised by Pharmac. He also participated in cancer fundraisers including Relay for Life.

Bob was clear of the cancer for seven years, until he got lung cancer, the last battle he fought.

Before he died, he was due to receive the gold star and bar, the second highest RSA award, in October.

“It was gutting that we couldn’t present it to him,” Clark said.

“He didn’t know we were going to drive up on Saturday to give it to him.”

His wife will be presented the award at his funeral.

The funeral is expected to have a large turnout, including people of significance including the chief of navy, and former defence minister Ron Marks.

Clark said the dignitaries expected to attend his funeral was a sign of respect for her husband, from the RSA, the military and the community.

The funeral was yesterday at St Matthew’s Church, Masterton.

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