They came by the thousand to pay their last respects at lunchtime last Thursday and listen in their sorrow to the sound of John Denver, Ray Charles and Willie Nelson.
In death, as in life, Sir Brian Lochore left generations of All Blacks with a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts.
The great and the good converged on Memorial Park in Masterton, where the teenaged Lochore set out more than 60 years earlier on a journey which made him, in the words of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, ‘the quintessential New Zealand sportsman’.
In his innate humility, Lochore would probably have pointed out that the place where he farmed,
Eketahuna, a village community in northern Wairarapa, towards the bottom of the North Island, has a population of fewer than 450 but can claim home to another beknighted son, Sir Murray Halberg, who struck gold in the 5,000 metres at Rome in 1960.
Of those paying tribute some of the most striking images came from the man Lochore called ‘The Shrink’, Gilbert Enoka.
“A great kauri tree has fallen,’’ the All Blacks’ mental skills coach told mourners during a funeral televised live across the country. “A humble man who allowed all of us to sit in the shade of his powerful presence.’’
Lochore’s son, David, told stories of his father’s athleticism as a sheep farmer.
“I think he was a direct throwback to the cavemen,’’ he joked. “He could roll his motor bike on himself while grappling with a sheep and not lose his grip on the animal.’’
The minister, the Reverend Steve Thompson, had the last words: “Go on your way, Sir Brian James Lochore, to new horizons, new life, new beginning. Go with our thanks for all you have meant to us and will continue to mean and for all you have contributed to our lives.’’
Imagine Lochore on some celestial field, picking up from the base of a scrum and popping an inside pass for Jonah Lomu coming off the blindside wing.
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