Peggy Bourne was the first to see a stunning new painting of her late husband at a poignant unveiling held today at the Ryman Healthcare retirement village named after him.
Peggy, accompanied by two of her three children, Spencer and Jazlin, and her niece Samantha, were wowed by artist Craig Primrose’s canvas which will go on display in the reception of the Pukekohe village.
An estimated 200 residents and visitors packed out the village lounge for the special occasion, which comes 20 years after Possum was killed in a non-competitive car collision.
The family, along with Craig Primrose, were welcomed by Village Manager Wendy Stanton and Ryman Healthcare’s NZ Chief Executive, Cheyne Chalmers, who explained that Possum Bourne very quickly became the obvious choice as a village name after Ryman bought the site in 2014.
“It became very clear that the name of the village just had to be Possum Bourne,” Cheyne said.
“It was the overwhelmingly favourite name when we asked Pukekohe for suggestions. And we loved the name too.”
Cheyne went on to describe Possum’s rally driving legacy which made him a household name in both New Zealand and Australia.
“Amongst Possum’s many titles won around the world, he was notably a three time winner of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and he also won the Australian Rally Championship an incredible seven times in a row.
“But it wasn’t just the successes that Possum achieved in his distinctive blue Subaru that created what has been described as ‘the Possum phenomenon’.
“He had that X factor, that unique combination of admirable qualities that earned him a very special place in the hearts of all New Zealanders,” Cheyne said.
From left: Possum's younger son Spencer, Artist Craig Primrose, Ryman Healthcare's NZ CEO Cheyne Chalmers, Possum's widow Peggy and daughter Jazlin, and niece Samantha with her son Kai.
After unveiling the painting, Peggy told the residents the story of how she met Possum at the base of Mt Kilimanjaro.
“I thought he’s awfully cute. I went up to his table and said ‘can you dance as good as you drive?
“And he was ‘I don’t know, let’s try!’ And that was that.
“He invited me to New Zealand for a visit so I came for three weeks and never went home! It was a very fast romance but a very lovely romance.”
Peggy said the 20th anniversary ‘still feels very raw’.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years but at the same time you still have that same pride, that same joy, everyone has amazing stories and it just keeps his memory alive.
“I’m so proud of him and honoured by Ryman to continue to honour his legacy with your village, and to see his pictures spread throughout this village and honoured here – he is now a part of your community and I just love that and it’s a big honour for the entire family.”
The painting, which Peggy described as ‘amazing’, is the 17th portrait to be unveiled in Ryman villages.
Above: Spencer recreates the dab he did with his sister Jazlin and older brother Taylor at the naming event eight years ago (below)!
Ryman co-founder Kevin Hickman commissioned artist Craig Primrose to paint portraits of its village namesakes as a way to further celebrate their legacies.
“The idea to name our villages after great New Zealanders came from Kevin Hickman nearly 40 years ago,” Cheyne said.
“He thought rather than using geographical locations, why not name them after significant people and celebrate them?”
Village choir the Bourne Singers performed a few numbers to keep the residents entertained.
The village also marked the occasion by naming each unit of the care centre after something relating to Possum’s life.
The resthome is called Cortina, after Possum’s first race car, the hospital is named Kenya, after one of Possum’s favourite rallies and also where he met Peggy; and the special care unit is named Riverhead, which is where Possum achieved his very first rally win.
In the seven years since the village’s care centre has been open, it has become a centre of compassion, kindness and love, Cheyne said.
“It most definitely lives up to our philosophy of delivering care that is ‘good enough for mum or dad’.”