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Gentle man dispenses with care

Rodney Duncan, Masterton pharmacist retiring after 43 years of service. PHOTO/LISA URBANI

Lisa Urbani

Reflecting on his 43 years of service in Masterton as a pharmacist, Rodney Duncan, 64, can say with a sense of pride that he did his best.

Due to retire from Life Pharmacy on August 23, Rodney is modest, and soft-spoken, and when asked, says his philosophy in life is to simply “be nice”.

Growing up in Taupo, he was always fascinated by the weather, keeping a rain gauge as a boy, and even contemplating a career as a weatherman when he finished school.

Not knowing what kind of prospects such a pursuit offered, he turned to pharmacy as it was familiar to him, and he had a talent for chemistry and mathematics.

His father was a pharmacist in Taupo and his mother was a dispensary technician, so Rodney and his twin sister and his brother were used to helping in the pharmacy, putting lids on the bottles.

Attending Taupo Primary School, he later boarded at St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton, and finished deventh form at Taupo-nui-a-tia College in 1973.

By 1977, he graduated with a Diploma of Pharmacy from the Central Institute of Technology in Heretaunga and went on to do his internship, working at the Taupo Hospital Pharmacy for a year, and then spending a year in Auckland.

City life was not for him, however, and once he met his wife Jane, who was holidaying in Taupo with some girlfriends, he soon found himself settled in Masterton where she was from.

Married for 39 years, Jane was a teacher for many years, and they were blessed with two children, son Hamish – also a pharmacist, and daughter Bella – a geologist.

Starting his career in Masterton, he worked at Richards and Haglund Pharmacy with Heaton Haglund for four years, before he and Jane bought Southend Pharmacy in 1985, co-owning it for 15 years, and working together.

Of those years, Jane said, “I loved working with Rodney, which is unusual for a husband and wife, he is always a gentleman and has such loyalty to whoever he works for”.

From 2007 to 2016, he worked at Duncan’s Pharmacy in Kuripuni, which his son Hamish and daughter-in-law Belinda, also both pharmacists, owned.

Life Pharmacy – owned by a group of pharmacists – where he dispenses two days a week, is a “wonderful place to work” he said.

“I will miss the staff terribly.”

He appreciated that they let him stay home for part of the lockdown, despite being an essential worker, so he could attend to family needs.

Serving the people of Masterton had been great and he said, “I have known many families for a long time, dispensing to different generations”.

His supportive wife Jane also deserves kudos for being there for him over the many years he had to do a demanding job and process a lot of confidential and sensitive information.

It is a job he takes seriously, and he would advise any young pharmacists to “be discreet, do not get distracted, and take the utmost care, because the stakes are high”.

To his knowledge, he had done no harm to anyone through mishaps or incorrect dispensing, during his career, taking care to “get it right and be absolutely sure”.

This peace of mind would allow him to enjoy his leisure years, time with his four small grandchildren, sharing trips with Jane in their motorhome, walking in the mountains, helping with some pest control, and following his passions for meteorology, astronomy and volcanology.

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