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Christmas came early for Bob Clarke!

Written by Maryvonne Gray
on October 27, 2022

The promise of a coffee date with his daughter in the village centre at Linda Jones recently turned into a surprise presentation for resident Bob Clarke as a thank you for his dedicated years of commitment to the Hamilton Christmas Parade.
Members of the Hamilton Christmas Charitable Trust had organised for a caricature of Bob to be made, depicting him riding above the city sitting in Santa’s sleigh, complete with reindeers - much to his surprise and delight!
The gesture recognised his contribution to the maintenance, repair and decoration of the many Christmas parade floats, being part of the parade and helping with the Garden Place Christmas tree.

Karen Watkins, from the Trust, described Bob’s great ability to ‘make anything out of nothing’ which, combined with his wonderful sense of humour, kindness and enthusiasm, made him a much-valued member of the parade team.
“People like Bob are few and far between these days. He is simply a lovely man as is his wife Jackie who supports him in all that he does,” says Karen. “The true epitome of a volunteer, friend and all round good guy.”
For Bob, the motive for helping out was simple.
“The thing I liked the most is on the day of the parade, families are out there with their kids. And just seeing the smiles on their faces, that’s what gives you such a big kick out of it. It’s a happy day,” says Bob.
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Bob's caricature picture up close (above) and with the team who made the surprise presentation (below) from left: Vivienne Evans, Karen Watkins, Bob, Paul Watkins, Pippa Mahood and Jackie.

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The third of six children – three boys and three girls – Bob comes a from pig farming background in Dinsdale. After helping his dad to run the farm along with his two brothers, Bob later ran his own farm close by, so he had plenty of practical skills to call upon when it came to maintaining all the Christmas floats.
And, as stated, behind every good man is a good woman – and Bob’s love story with Jackie began when they were both 16 after he met her while visiting his sister’s flat.
Now they have been married for 60 years and have three children, five grandsons and one great granddaughter to show for it.
“We have known each other for a long time!” says Bob.
Jackie didn’t do the farmer’s wife thing, instead, when the children were at school she worked first at Waikato Hospital and then for the Waikato Times for 20 years.
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Bob and Jackie Clarke are now enjoying life at Linda Jones Retirement Village.

Bob gave up the farm in his mid-50s and the pair started a bed and breakfast business, which they did for 16 years.
“I loved it. We met all sorts of people, including lots of English people, some of whom we stayed with in return,” says Bob.
At the same time, he got a job in the produce section of their local supermarket, finally fulfilling his childhood dream!
“When I was seven, all I wanted to do was be the Four Square man with the Brylcreemed hair and a pencil behind my ear.
“It took me until I was 55 but I did it!” he laughs.
While he loved his six years at the supermarket, one thing that had a huge effect on him was joining Toastmasters.
“I was always a shy person, and would feel inferior to people especially in a crowded room.
“One night a week I would get dressed up, you would have to do a minute’s speech and you only have the time it takes to walk up there to think about it, and the speech has to have a beginning, a middle and an end.
“That made a big difference to me confidence-wise and has helped me a lot in life. I did that for 20 years and Jackie did it for 10 years.”
It means that Happy Hour at Linda Jones is a most enjoyable experience now, and he admits he spends a bit of time in the village workshop too.
“I made a row of German shop fronts to display in the resthome here at Christmastime. I like working with wood,” he says.
Meanwhile, Jackie is also a talented artist, with a penchant for painting porcelain, a pastime she took up in 2000 and has continued by joining an art group in the village.
“There is a kiln in the workshop here. I’ve given a lot away to family and friends but it was great for the market day we had in the village recently,” she says.
With Bob’s sister living at Ryman Healthcare’s sister village Shona MacFarlane for 15 years, the couple had an idea of where they might live in their retirement years.
But they made sure to do their due diligence, checking out all their options in the area before making the move two years ago.
Says Bob: “After looking all around we decided yes. There was really no comparison.”

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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