St Teresa’s Church, Karori, was packed on the 14 May for the Funeral Mass for Robert Charles (Bob) Stuart. Family, friends, parishioners were there and many people representing the variety of pursuits with which Bob had been associated during his life.
Celebrant, Fr Tom O’Brien paid tribute to Bob’s 45 years of faithful service and support of the parish and school. He had been part of Monsignor Herlihy’s team for the building of the new church and for the development of the property at Karori in 1968, and had helped Fr Mick Cahill in his many projects in the parish.
He also served on the Archdiocesan Properties Board and helped Pregnancy Help for some years.
The family eulogies also brought out the wonderful contribution Bob Stuart had made quietly and generously to country and local community over the years – much of it unheralded.
Best known was his contribution to sport, especially his captaincy of the All Blacks from 1949 to 1954. Once his playing days were over, he went on to do much for the game of rugby as an effective coach and administrator – both nationally and internationally.
Less well known was a lifetime of service to New Zealand agriculture and overseas trade missions. In 1973, Bob Stuart received (from the Queen herself) the OBE for distinguished services to agriculture and rugby.
Bob Stuart was born in Dunedin in 1920 and spent his boyhood and early education at Waitati – a country district just north of Dunedin. He went on to complete his intermediate and secondary education at St Kevin’s College, Oamaru, and had been a loyal old boy of that college ever since.
The young school leaver worked in Christchurch before going to Palmerston North in 1940 to study at Massey Agricultural College. While there his sporting prowess was recognised with representative honours in Manawatu rugby.
The young Bob Stuart joined the NZ Navy and was soon sent to the United Kingdom for officer training. He left New Zealand in 1942 and served on a destroyer and a corvette doing convoy duty in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, as well as in the Persian Gulf and Burma.
Soon after returning home in 1946, he resumed his studies at Canterbury University, graduating Bachelor of Commerce in 1948. A year later, he married Nancy and went on to raise a family of four daughters – Mary, Margaret, Claire and Philippa. Tragically, Nancy was killed in a road accident in 1988. In 1991 he married his present wife, Mary, and was blessed with 14 years of happiness until his recent illness and death.
Soon after graduation from Canterbury, Bob Stuart joined the Agricultural Ministry and became an agricultural economist. He took part in trade talks in London and was a delegate to the FAO in Rome. In succession he worked effectively for the Agricultural Production Council, the NZ Dairy Board and the Vocational Training Council.
The young Bob Stuart’s rugby skills showed while at St Kevin’s College, Oamaru, and he was selected for the Manawatu Representative team while just out of his teens. He became an All Black in 1949, playing against Australia, and then captained the All Black side to make the last of the ‘long tours’ to the British Isles, Ireland, France, Canada and USA in 1953/’54.
He retired from active playing in 1954, but then gave a lifetime of service to the game coaching, and in administration and judiciary. His International Rugby Board award in 2003 for 50 years’ distinguished service to the sport was richly deserved and covered such contributions as the establishment of the World Cup and Sevens competitions, the revamping of the IRB to make it more truly international, the overhaul of the laws of the game – especially to prevent injuries – and, generally, the promotion of rugby worldwide for both men and women.
In sport, in agriculture and trade, in family life, in church affairs and in the community, Robert Charles Stuart gave generously of his time and talents. May he rest in peace.