Stuart is finally at rest. After wrangling all the relevant paperwork out of the police etc we all gathered at Wat Preah Puth for his cremation at 3pm yesterday. I organised large framed digital photos and some portable speakers to go with my iPod and was out at the Wat early to set up. The old guys very kindly ran an extension chord out to the crematorium and the ambulance carrying Stuart soon arrived from Calmette. The crew gathered around and Stuart was sent off with Pearl Jam’s “There he goes” and half a dozen The Veuve songs. It was a very sombre and emotional affair and it is something I really hope I do not have to do again any time soon. As I drove out of the Wat I was hit in the stomach with a very heavy feeling. Of course I had shed tears during the week and on the day but this gut feeling was strange. I guess it was grief and it stayed with me until about my 5th beer. As a group we all headed over to Lone Star and a cold Zorok Beer was placed in front of his photos that were perched up on the bar. The alcohol was much needed and we were soon sharing stories about Stuart and having a good laugh. Cavern Bar came next. Again, a fresh beer for Stuart and I delivered my Eulogy to a tear ridden room. Cadillac Bar provided a much needed dinner stop and by this time we were in good spirits – as was Stuart who was still perched up on the bar ! Final stop was Reggae Bar where people started dropping like flies due to mostly sheer emotional exhaustion after a week of waiting to send Stuart off. All in all,it was a fitting and complete send off and one that I am sure Stuart would have been happy with.
Here is his Eulogy that I wrote;
Firstly, I think we should all give a big pat on the back to the guys who have squared away Stuart’s business and personal affairs. To Andy and Jeff – Having been to Calmette with Humphrey during a health scare with Stuart a few months ago, and knowing what that was like for Hump and I, I cannot imagine the stress you two have been through. In a far away and dangerous country it is reassuring to know that there is a crew here who give a damn. To Clive (who is not here today but will be back soon ), you are a true friend who flew in at a moments notice from China and it was great to hear some stories from the old days over a beer as it gave me more of an insight into Stuart. Thanks also to Michael from the British Embassy for his assistance at this difficult time.
I can remember pretty clearly when I first met Stuey back in 2007. I walked into Jungle Bar and there was this big affable, springy haired guy with a thuck Kiwi accent propped up at the bar having a beer. As you often do here in Cambodia, a quick introduction was swapped and as a result of that random introduction I picked up a new mate who would contribute to my weekly life in some shape or form for the next 2 years or so.
Stuey was a multi faceted, larger-than-life character in every sense of the word;
Son to loving mother Margory
Brother to Lindsay and Kay
Loving father to his son Seran
Husband to Selvee
Partner to Vicheka
An intellectual with well informed and firm views
A Devil’s advocate
Skilled professional in the workplace
Bar hopper and reviewer
Rapscallion and a mate’s mate. Stuey was all of these and more.
If I had to think of one word that summed him up it would be PASSIONATE.
Stuey stood on life’s soap box but not as an agitator or a rambler. Ever the glass half-full type of guy, he was conversationally engaging and intellectually stimulating. With a slow crossing of his tree trunk sized arms and his signature “Yeah but hang on a sec…to be fair…” he challenged us all to think about life and it’s vagaries on almost every front. From random daily events to the Global Economic Crisis, Stuey could talk the talk without a whiff of bullshit which, in a city that has enough of a pungent aroma on its own, was a refreshing breeze. He was also one of the few expats I know here who rarely if ever derided the locals for whatever reason, instead – he was a champion of the people who constantly put detractors in their place.
I recently watched a movie called Taking Chance about the job that US Military Escorts fulfill when they escort soldiers who have been killed in action back to their home towns. It is simple in it’s plot and low on dialogue but the emotion that it struck into me was overpowering and it left me quite drained because I could only think of Stu and his own recent journey. As the body makes its way across the United States via planes and auto mobiles it is shown a massive amount of respect by all who witness its final journey and there is a line in the movie that struck a chord in me that I wanted to include here. As the Escort berates himself for not doing enough during his military career he is put swiftly into line by an old war veteran who says “You brought him home. You’re his witness now.
Without a witness, we all just disappear…”
Stuey, I want you to know I am very happy we were mates and I am glad I was one of your witnesses for the last two years. Should I ever leave Cambodia, you are indelibly etched into my memories of my time here and you will never disappear. You were a positive force in a place that can be very negative and our expat circle will be much the poorer for not having you amidst us. You will also be missed by many of your former colleagues back in New Zealand who have contacted me via email and offered the following odes;
I guess for me Stuart was the person who always tested the limits – being his friend always managed to get me into new experiences that I would never have had the courage to take on my own. He loved adventure and excitement and it was a privilege to be able to share and experience his hedonistic world. An irreplaceable friend to all who knew him.
Stu to me was the Volume up loud kinda guy, drove as fast as he could, swore as much as he could, drank as much as he could….and he was my boss. We shared a lot of laughs with the guy, a few heated moments and many a crisis. I know that I and many of those who counted him as a friend and colleague are deeply shocked by his passing and share with you all in your grief.
I’m an old work friend of Stuart’s. I heard the news via a friend who saw your website. It’s a real shock and I’ll remember him for his wicked sense of humour and definitely his challenging opinions!
I had the privilege and pleasure of working with Stu during his time
at NZ Post. I valued his abilities at work, and enjoyed his company
at leisure. His intelligence and common sense was a valued resource in a large corporate environment – he had a way of cutting through
corporate bulldust and getting to the heart of a matter, but never in
a way that insulted or demeaned colleagues.
On a personal level (indeed on every level) he was engaging, witty and passionate in his zest for life. Work was to be enjoyed, enjoyment was meant to be shared and a challenge was one of the things Stu enjoyed most. It was his love of a challenge and fundamental need to enjoy every moment of every day that was one of the reasons that led him to leave the staid corporate world of Post for a new and exciting challenge in Cambodia. I have no doubt he gave it everything and then some – Stu would know no other way.
To his son, I know that Stu loved you dearly. He was immensely proud of you and of being your Dad. It is beyond sad that you will grow up and never know your Dad as a friend as well as a Father, or get to know him as his friends did. I do not know why your Mother and Stu went separate paths, but I do know that you were always in your Dad’s thoughts.
Sandra de Kock
Damn it Stuart that is not the way your storey is supposed to end! There are still so many wrongs in the world to put to rights over a whiskey sour. Missing you already…
So…as you can see, the news of Stuart’s death has struck many. I can also mention that I was contacted by the Herald on Sunday newspaper in New Zealand who want to run a tribute to Stuart.
Without saying goodbye but instead “see you again one day” and on a final and much brighter note Stu, I can tell you that tomorrow night it is Adam and Chris in the final of American Idol and my money is on Adam. You and I shared a love for American Idol and whilst I think secretly you would have agreed that Adam will probably win – I
have no doubt you would have gone for the underdog in Chris anyway. I hope they have a television where you are and
I’ll be thinking of you as I watch it.
God speed mate,
I would now like to ask anyone else who feels like saying something – no matter how long or quick it may be – to come forward if they wish.