Norm Russell wasn’t a man to sit still for long.
He was 81 but he was still helping out son, Darrell, with his business Piako Motors, ferrying vehicles in between the company’s yards throughout Waikato and Bay of Plenty.
He wasn’t even meant to be mowing the family’s lawns at their rural Morrinsville property on Saturday when he suffered a sudden medical event.
Norm was found by partner, Marie, and emergency services were called.
As family busily prepare the “fun-loving, cheeky bugger’s” funeral on Saturday, Darrell and wife, Catherine, greet shocked guests of a man regarded as an identity in the area as there was unlikely a person, or a face, he didn’t know.
Darrell said although his father was due to celebrate his 82nd birthday in May, he loved helping out with the business and catching up with all the staff.
“We have a 100 plus staff and he had a big influence on them … he’s also very much well-known around town.”
Norm was the type of a guy described by friends as a “good bastard”, by one, and “just adorable”.
“We had so much fun with him,” another said as they walked into Norm’s unit attached to Darrell’s home.
Former boss Mike Smith, of Morrinsville trucking company Andy Smith Ltd, said the shock of his friend’s passing was still sinking in.
He’d last caught up with him on Christmas Eve after reading about an alleged road rage incident in which he was struck in the face.
He described him as a top guy. He wasn’t only a former employee but “a good mate”.
However, he had struggled the past few weeks after being involved in a brutal road rage incident in Otaki when he was allegedly king hit to the face.
A man has since been charged over the incident, which Marie witnessed.
The image of his bashed face went around the world. He told the Herald at the time: “There was blood everywhere, split all my gums from my false teeth.”
Marie said Norm, who couldn’t open his eye for three days, had still been “very, very upset” about what happened, and was having trouble letting it go.
They were pleased a man has now been charged and were keen for the court process to continue.
Marie said they had been in Tauranga earlier on Saturday before returning home and Norm decided to mow the lawns, something he wasn’t meant to be doing, Darrell said.
The grief at the loss of the dedicated grandfather is still raw and heightened as the family were in Whangamata commemorating the six-year anniversary of the death of Darrell and Catherine’s daughter, Amie, who died in a paddle-boarding accident on January 7, 2015.
Coroner Gordon Matenga found that Amie drowned after losing her grip on a paddleboard she was holding and was pulled towards the side of a boat before going underwater.
Her board was swept to one side of the boat while she was stuck under the boat on the other side unable to free herself, likely due to her leg rope becoming wrapped around the boat’s keel.
The Russells are renowned for their generosity in the Piako region, and while Darrell has now lost both parents – Mum Kathleen died in 2013 – it was Norm who was forever proud of his son and his achievements.
Writing in the foreword of his semi-biography for his birthday last year, Norm wrote, “if I can claim one notable success it was the raising, with Kathleen of course, a son of whom I could not be more proud of”.
“Not only proud of his business success and creating his own wonderful family, but proud of the fact he is a good man in every sense of the word”.
Norm Russell will be farewelled on Saturday at the Morrinsville Events Centre from 11am.
* A police spokesperson confirmed a 24-year old man had been summonsed to appear in the Levin District Court later this month on a charge of assault.