Tribute to Taupiri’s ‘mayor’

With the death of Deane Vernall, Taupiri may never be the same again, says journalist and Waikato Times obituary writer Roy Burke.

If the community had a mayor it would have been Deane.

More than 1000 Taupiri, Ngaruawahia and district people turned out for his funeral at the Taupiri Rugby Club last Saturday. He was only 50.

Deane’s casket was escorted from his Ngaruawahia home to the clubrooms for the farewell, and then to the Ngaruawahia Cemetery for interment. The escort comprised around 50 motorcycles and a fleet of classic cars; three of the cars had been owned by aficionado Deane.

Vernall Motors Ltd
Vernall Motors Ltd

Deane was also owner of Taupiri’s Vernall Motors. His garage was Taupiri’s community centre. People dropped in for a talk. Everybody knew Deane, and was welcome. They bounced ideas off him and fed him their problems, big and small. Deane was the community mentor. He made everyone feel important.

He fought blood cancer for eight years. Even when very sick he never complained. He lived the day and fought a strong fight till the end. He died at Waikato Hospital on Wednesday September 10 with family at his side.

His death notice in The Waikato Times said it all: “You’ll be sadly missed but will never be forgotten.”

Deane is survived by wife Meg, two sons and two daughters.

Deane was number four of five children of Nancy and Neville Vernall, farmers, and was born on September 19, 1963, in Morrinsville. He attended Motumoaho Primary School, and when his parents bought a farm near Taupiri he switched to Taupiri Primary School.

One of his first friends there was Howie Lovell, and it was a friendship that lasted all his life. Howie was best man when he married in 1987, and a key speaker at his funeral farewell. They were lads together in Boy Scouts (Deane’s dad was scout leader). The two shared a passion in cars, Deane favouring Fords and Howie glued to Holdens – but they never held individual preferences against each other.

Deane attended Ngaruawahia High School, completing in 1980 and taking an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic at Taupiri’s K D Motors. A dozen years later Deane bought the business and it became Vernall Motors. The local motorcycle club had headquarters across the road and the garage became a refuge when mechanical problems happened. Advice was sought and freely given, tools were freely loaned, and virtually all returned.

Staff became friends and loyal “extended family.” Many stayed on the payroll for years. The bond further proved as Deane’s sickness gripped him.

Meg: “Deane’s five staff have shown strongest dedication through his illness and have stepped up in his absences while in hospital. A truer commitment to an employer is not possible – they are outstanding in their own individual ways.”

Deane and Meg Barlow were at school together, Meg (older by a year) a couple of classes ahead. Of course they scarcely noticed each other. Young people in the rural community moved in a group and Meg (of course) attended Deane’s 18th birthday party. They noticed each other. Three months later they were “an item,” calling each other “babe.” In February 1987 they married. Daniel, Dylan, India and Mia came quickly. They were proud of and devoted to their family.

For 34 years Deane worked in the same garage, earning a place as a community icon. Howie led him to stand for the Taupiri Community Board, despite the terminal illness. His shoulder was to the community wheel even when he was very sick, says Howie.

“He was a lovely person. He was so much a contributor. He was the hub of the community.”

Deane Rodney Vernall, 1963-2014



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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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