A top man, a community stalwart, a “go-to-guy”.
Whichever way you look at it, Tony Wood was considered something of a local legend.
The Methven community is reeling after Tony was killed in a two-car crash on Domett Road in the Hurunui District last Wednesday night.
His wife Kate, who was also in the car, was injured and is in Christchurch Hospital. A person in the other vehicle was also killed.
Speaking to the Guardian, Kate says she remembers seeing two round headlights suddenly appearing out of the dark, heading straight for them.
They rounded a right-hand corner on the crest of a rise, and then there was an “almighty thump”.
“There was about 1/10th of a second or so between seeing the lights and being hit.”
Kate was seriously injured, suffering broken ribs and other injuries from being squashed by the seatbelt and thrown back into her seat by the airbags.
But father of two Tony, 69, was killed.
Kate describes her husband as an “impressive individual in so many ways”.
A former long-time Mount Hutt College teacher and business owner, she says he never stopped working.
“He would go many extra miles for his pupils, his staff, his friends, his clients and his acquaintances.
“He had a phenomenal memory and a wide range of knowledge. He had a thirst for knowledge and facts, and just loved learning new things.”
The school paid tribute to him online, calling him a “fantastic teacher, great colleague, and an even better person”.
He built up softball at the school from no teams to four Saturday teams, was involved in the school’s successful skiing programme, and not only had football teams at the school but also became president of the local football club, building it up from four teams to 14.
He also pushed girls’ football locally, with Methven having some of the first all-girls’ teams in the district.
Since leaving teaching he had been heavily involved in tourism businesses.
His rental vehicles were used by local firms and schools, locals, film crews and overseas ski teams.
His accommodation businesses included the Cedar Chalets and Barkers Lodge.
“Many have come to really enjoy Friday nights at Barkers Bar. Tony did not just serve alcohol, he enjoyed sharing his knowledge of the background of the drink being served – where in NZ the brewery was, what the hops were, what the tastes were and any other interesting information he knew about the drink,” Kate said.
Kate received an email this week from Canadian Olympic Hard Snowboard team coach Mark Ballard, who had stayed with them on several occasions.
He told her “sitting at the bar and enjoying a beer recommended by Tony is what is good and right about life”.
Mt Hutt Ski Area operations general manager James Urquhart, a former student of Tony’s, describes him as a “top guy”.
“He was dry, witty, very, very funny. He was one of the best school teachers I ever had.
“He changed the world for everyone at that school, I think.”
He recalls Wood pushing for fundraising for sport gear and uniforms, as well as for a school van which was used to cart students on school trips.
Wood had them selling everything from chicken and fish portions to donuts which were cooked with the help of bunsen burners in the science lab.
“He was a go-to-guy.
“If you had a half an idea, you’d walk out of talking to him with a full one, he’d know how you were going to do it,” Urquhart said.
“He was super caring, too.
“I can’t think of a bad thing to say about him.”
Kate wanted to give her heartfelt thanks to the drivers who stopped and looked after them following the crash, as well as local police, firefighters, rescue helicopter staff and ambulance crew members.
“These people are legends.”
- By Daisy Hudson