Keith Stephenson left lasting legacy




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Keith Stephenson, the much-loved Coromandel Town man who enriched the local environment and many lives with his love of adventure in the outdoors, is being celebrated after his sudden death of a heart attack while riding his bike. He was 75. Over four decades in the township, Keith (known also as Hemi) had many jobs and roles; he worked as a butcher and doing home kills, a beekeeper, ran a bike shop and was the greenkeeper at the golf club. But Keith’s overwhelming contribution to Coromandel and its people was through volunteering — a life devoted to helping others in a myriad of unassuming and selfless ways as well as serving on the town’s community board for nine years. There is no family in Coro untouched by his life and generosity. He embodied the best of the Kiwi spirit, devoting a huge range of practical skills for the benefit of the community and to inspire all those who came to Coromandel to immerse themselves in its beauty and environment. As a member of the trio of trustees on the Spirit of Coromandel Trust — alongside great friend and fellow adventurer Andy Reid and wife Rita — he led a dedicated following of athletes including rugby great Richie Mccaw, on a journey inspired by the fresh sea and mountain air of the Coromandel. For more than 20 years, the Spirit of Coromandel Trust used funds raised from its events to send Coromandel youngsters on adventure courses that changed their lives for the better. Keith knew the importance of “feeling alive” in nature, and spent his life helping others do the same. It is with thanks to Keith, Rita and Andy Reid’s love of the outdoors that athletes — and the Coromandel communities that benefited from their fundraising — had three iconic events, including the K2 Road Cycle Classic, the ARC Adventure Race and the Great Kauri Run. Keith and Andy hiked the length and breadth of the peninsula, finding marvellous and scary challenges for Adventure Races Coromandel (ARC events), involving cliff faces, mine shafts, tunnels, eels and fast water, in the process developing deep ties and relationships with farmers, Ma¯ori communities and landowners. He was a devoted husband to Rita, who he married in May 1975, the day before his birthday so he’d have no chance of forgetting their wedding anniversary. Rita was similarly inspired by her love of nature and they had four children: Elliot, Carne, Cara and Riana. Keith’s biggest dream was to inspire and mobilise the next generation of Kiwi leaders, adventurers and environmentalists with an outdoor pursuits centre on the peninsula. Many tramp the peninsula’s tracks without knowing they were opened up, literally, by Keith — his machete, chainsaw and the teams he assembled. The new bike park and pump track at Coromandel are a lasting legacy to his work and life.