Roger Kerr’s funeral

I wasn’t surprised that Roger’s funeral service packed out Old St Pauls. There were several hundred mourners from the young to the old. I did reflect during the service that an untimely earthquake would have wiped out the entire VRWC, leaving Whale Oil as the sole survivor to continue on.

Stuff has a write up of the service.I’ll do my own comments shortly, but first want to point people to the tributes page on Roger’s blog. There’s a wonderful collection from friends and colleagues. Some of the more well known are Michael Porter, Richard Epstein, Tyler Cowan, Ralph Norris, Gil Simpson, Tenby Powell, and Jenny Gibbs.

The service was an emotional mixture of celebration and grief. There were six speakers. Bryce Wilkinson spoke of Roger’s professional achievements. Regardless of whether or not one agreed with Roger’s policies, what everyone stressed was his incredible intellect and an incredible work ethic, combined with a total lack of ego.

His older brother Alan Kerr spoke, and then David Leonard, an old school/uni friend. David told many great stories of Roger. My favourite was the well kept secret that his friends nicknamed him Fido at university. On the basis of Kerr=Cur. They even went to the trouble of registering Roger with the Council and getting name tags. However they had to kill Fido Kerr off some time later when they got a letter telling them he needed a rabies shot.

Then two of Roger’s sons spoke, plus one of Catherine’s sons. Incredibly warm and moving tributes, and also huge sadness about the short period of time he had with his granddaughter and how they hoped he would last until December for grandchild no 2. Alas it was not to be.

One comment during the speeches had the entire church laughing out loud. Amongst a long list of people being thanked for helping Roger and Catherine cope during his final days, they thanked the ACT Party for their wonderfully distracting neediness.

So it was a great series of tributes to Roger’s life, and his personal qualities. But it was also very sad. Almost every speaker spoke of the huge love between Roger and Catherine. One quote was Roger helped make the world better, but for Catherine he was her world. Another said that Roger’s time together with Catherine was the happiest of his entire life, and the same for her. Roger worked up until the day he died. It is sad he never got to enjoy a quiet retirement with his loved one. Mind you, I suspect even in a quiet retirement, he would have taken his famous green pen along.

Afterwards a few of us went to Dockside to do some memorial toasts. That was nice. On Friday I had a call from another Roger. I went to call him back and as I typed his name in, it came up with ’s name and number also as an option. I deleted him from the phone, reflecting with sadness how that is when it really sinks in – realising no more calls or talks. There’s something final about deleting someone from your contacts.

I thought I would end with a story, which sums Roger up for me. It was when I worked for National in Parliament in 2003. Don Brash was the Finance Spokesman then, and we had a Caucus Economic Committee meeting on privatisation. Roger and a colleague from the BRT were the invited guests.

A document was circulated showing the companies that remained in state ownership. There had been a perception that all of them bar a few power companies had been sold in the 80s and 90s. But this paper listed around 50 companies still owned by the state. As discussion started on the economics and politics of privatisation, one MP asked Roger which of the 50 state owned companies were suitable for privatisation, and which were not. I have always remembered and treasured Roger’s reply, which of course was “All of them”.

I don’t tell the story to trigger a debate about asset sales. This is not the thread for that. There is a legitimate variety of opinions on its pros and cons. I tell the story to illustrate how Roger would never use weasel words, or say something he didn’t believe in. To the end, he would always advocate for what he believed was right. We need more men and women of conviction.


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