• Pat Benson remembered – “his dedication to his community was unparalleled"

Pat Benson remembered – “his dedication to his community was unparalleled"

Hawke’s Bay stalwart Pat Benson, who passed away earlier this month, has been remembered a “legend’ and a “giant of a man”.

Benson, 66, was farewelled at a memorial service at Centennial Hall in Napier last Friday, which was attended by hundreds of people.

Benson, QSM, was a Junior All Black and accomplished swimmer – having swum the Cook Strait in 1979, a philanthropist, the founder of Napier Computer Systems, and a life member of various clubs and organizations, including the Heretaunga Swimming Club, OBK and the Napier Art Deco Trust.

His memorial service was described by many who attended as a celebration of his life.

One man who knew him well was Hastings Ambassador Henare O’Keefe, who described him as “a giant in the serving industry, a gigantic man with an equally gigantic heart”.

“There's not a hell of a lot he wasn't involved in. Art deco, surf lifesaving, rugby, soccer, opera, dancing, MAC. Whenever I sent the word out for his help in various things, he was there. He was a very giving, very generous man, and all of his children were all dux at their various schools. Head boy, head girl. Not only that, they excelled in the swimming pool as well. I said to Pat: ‘I don't know what you're doing, brother, at home, but keep doing it’."

“I was thinking about him today, because I've got his funeral programme sitting on the coffee table. I looked at it. I said: ‘Mate, no one's going to replace you!’.”

Hastings District Councillor and trustee on the Jarrod Cunningham Youth Sport Trust, Damon Harvey, said Benson had made an immense impact on Napier, Hastings and beyond.

“I was lucky enough to know Pat personally and as Trustees on the Jarrod Cunningham Youth Sport Trust.”

“Some people make a huge contribution in one particular area but for Pat it was in multiple areas - sport, business, arts and culture, youth development, art deco, heritage buildings and more.”

“Pat had a giving nature and created an inclusive culture everywhere he went and many organisations will miss his generosity and enormous contribution.”

In a Facebook post, Napier City Business said was not just a businessman; he was a local legend, a sportsman, and a philanthropist.

“His remarkable achievements, both in athletics and entrepreneurship, have left an indelible mark on the Hawkes Bay region.”

“Born in Wairoa and raised in Hastings, Patrick's journey was one of determination and resilience. From his early days at St Mary's School to his successes as a Junior All Black and a swimmer, he exemplified the spirit of perseverance. His passion for sports extended to his children, all of whom have excelled in swimming, with one even representing New Zealand at the Beijing Olympics.”

“Beyond sports, Patrick's entrepreneurial spirit shone brightly. Alongside his brothers, he founded Napier Computer Systems, which later evolved into MAGIQ Software. His commitment to innovation and excellence transformed the company into a cornerstone of the local business community.”

“Pat was a treasured member of our CBD family. His contributions as a business owner, building owner, mentor and advisor have been truly significant. Pat was an employer and landlord to many, all of whom greatly respected him.”

Napier City Business said that representing Benson Properties, Benson was awarded the Spark Business Hawke's Bay Napier CBD Landlord of the Year Award in 2020. This award was a true testament to the person he was.

“Post Covid, Pat was instrumental in supporting his tenants through some of the most challenging times in business history.”

“Our love and thoughts are with Pat's family, friends, employees and tenants. We will miss you dearly, Pat. Rest in peace.”

Sports outlet Kooga New Zealand called him a “true pillar of our community”.

“We are incredibly grateful to have known Pat and to have witnessed firsthand the incredible support he provided to numerous clubs over the years.  His generosity, kindness, and genuine love for sports have left an enduring legacy that will continue to inspire us all. Rest in peace Pat, you will be so deeply missed.”

Hastings Boys’ High School said in a post that Benson’s four sons attended the school.

“Pat himself is an Old Boy of Hastings Boys’ High School 3.21970 – 9.2.1972 before leaving to attend Karamu High School. His legacy will live on at school as the Benson Family Cup is awarded annually for Academic Excellence at Senior Prizegiving.”

“Pat was a member of our Board of Trustees from 2001 – 2007 and has always been a huge supporter of our school, attending events and popping in every few months to share a coffee and catchup on all the school news with the Headmaster.  He was always cheerful and so very proud of his family.”

“Pat was a former Junior All Black, playing 42 games for Hawke’s Bay at tighthead prop from 1978 to 1990 and was a national marathon swimming champion.  In 2013 he was awarded a Queens Service Medal for services to art deco restoration and the community. On February 24, 1979, Pat swam the north to south crossing of Cook Strait in 10 hours, 18 minutes.”

“Pat was not only a very respected member of our school community but of the Hawke’s Bay region too.  He was deeply committed to giving back to the community that had given him so much.  Whether through charitable donations, community initiatives, or mentorship programmes for aspiring entrepreneurs, encouraging them to pursue their dreams .  He made such a positive impact on the lives of those around him.  He has left an indelible mark on many lives and the region as a whole.”

Māori Agricultural College (M.A.C) said that Benson had been so kind and generous to the good of MAC for a number of years.

“His contributions have been great and all done in aroha for the people. Pat has supported the MAC committee as a kind and thoughtful sponsor, never wanting his name associated with his kind contributions. He just wanted to help out of the love in his heart. He wanted MAC to success and was prepared to put his heart & soul into helping in whatever way he could. Pat was an assistant coach (scrum coach) for the MAC premier team from 2010-2012 & then head coach for the 2013 season. He had stints as scrum after this but always stayed close to MAC. Pat will be remembered for his big heart, kindness and charity.”

Hastings District Councillor Michael Fowler said he had been sad to hear of Benson’s passing – a man “who contributed to Hawke’s Bay in so many different ways, including being a significant contributor to the revitalisation of Napier’s Art Deco buildings”.