Ronald George Gibson, known to most as Ron, was one of life’s true gentlemen.
He was born on October 11, 1943, in New Plymouth. The second-born son of Arthur and Tansie, Ron was raised on the family dairy farm. Ron’s oldest son, Stephen, said, “Throughout his life, Dad was deeply rooted in his Taranaki upbringing and his love for the land. Growing up on the family farm instilled in him a strong work ethic and a deep appreciation for nature.”
Ron attended Rahotu Primary School with his four brothers. During his early teenage years, he was a member of the Taranaki Boy’s Brigade, serving at different points as both a corporal and as the company bugler. He later joined the New Zealand Cadet Corps, learning, and eventually teaching, the junior Cadets how to use a variety of weapons, including a Bren gun.
His secondary education took place at Opunake High School and New Plymouth Boy’s High School.
Ron knew from the age of ten that he would be a veterinarian, but in those early days, there was no training facility for vets in New Zealand. He attended Victoria University in Wellington for two years, before attending the University of Queensland to complete his degree. He graduated in 1967.
Some years later, he was awarded an honorary degree, Bachelor of Veterinary Science, from Massey University.
Ron was a father to four children. With his first wife Jane, he raised Stephen and Jillian, and later, when he married Jude, two more children were born, Paddy and Sam.
He always had a talent for working with his hands, at one point building a boat that the family used on many holidays, staying in a pop-up caravan.
When his later children were young, Ron studied for and attained his MBA through The University of Waikato. Starting work with the local Morrinsville and District Vet Club in January of 1968, he soon became well-known and respected for his veterinary work in the area.
As a new vet, he was allocated a rural area to cover, which included Mangateparu, Te Puninga, Patetonga, Tahuna and Hoe-O-Tainui. In those days vets had to provide their own car, and it would not be unusual, in the spring, for him to call on over 20 farms in one day, and average over 250 km of driving.
A former work colleague, John McCarthy, spoke at the funeral. “Ron was well-liked by clients and staff alike. He was highly respected as a skilled and knowledgeable clinician, who had a reputation for doing everything at considerable pace,” said John. “He was always happy to share his knowledge and expertise.”
In 1984 Ron became Deputy Head Vet, and in 1989 took on the role of Head Veterinarian. Ron continued with his clinical veterinary work until 1994, when he stopped hands-on work to focus on the management side of the business as CEO.
He was very community-minded and served on many committees over the years. He was on the committee, and later the president, of the local Jaycees.
He was also the chairman of the Morrinsville Primary School PTA, on the committees of the College Board of Trustees, and the Scout group.
Ron was also involved with the local theatre. He designed and built the prototype of the Morrinsville Primary School adventure playground, and the flying fox.
When his daughter Paddy took up sailing, Ron decided to join the Hamilton Yacht Club as well. He enjoyed sailing his Laser and driving rescue boats, continuing to be involved in the club long after Paddy left home and moved away.
A lovely, gentle, quietly-spoken man, his family meant everything to him. Together they travelled extensively; Vietnam, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Myanmar and Antarctica, to name a few.
Ron served on the New Zealand Veterinary Council for twenty years, acting as chairman for eleven years of that tenure. During his time as chairman significant advancements were made for the veterinary profession.
Ron was pivotal in the development of the Veterinarians Act 2005, which provided the Veterinary Council with new mechanisms to ensure the fitness and competence of vets to practice. He oversaw the implementation of the compulsory continuing professional development framework, and a major overhaul of the Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinarians. Ron was also on the Australasian Veterinary Boards Council.
He was awarded an ONZM (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit) for services to veterinary science. In 2014 Ron was awarded the NZVA Outstanding Service Award for his significant contribution to maintaining and enhancing the standards of veterinary practice.
He strongly believed in the education and training of future veterinarians, and with another vet, he approached Massey University with a proposal that vet students serve internships within the Morrinsville practice. This gave students exposure to large dairy farms, and the scheme is still running some twenty years later.
In 2011, after 44 years with the Morrinsville Veterinary Club (now Anexa Vets,) and 22 of those years as CEO, Ron retired. In his retirement, he and Jude worked on native restoration of the Topehaehae Stream behind their property. He kept busy, and together with Jude and a team of volunteers, they took on the restoration of the gully on Allen St by the ATC Hall in Morrinsville.
He and Jude have been involved in a wide range of Waikato biodiversity restoration projects, including native seed collection, restoration of lowland kahikatea forest fragments, and pest control at Te Miro.
“Ron gave so much, he achieved so much for us as veterinarians, he gave generously to the wider community, and to the green environment he loved,” said fellow vet Catherine Smith.
Ron had a long-term health condition, but it had been wellmanaged, and his sudden death from Covid-19 was unexpected. He had recently celebrated his 80th birthday and was fit and healthy.
“He strived to leave the world better than he found it, a goal he truly achieved,” said his son Stephen.
He passed away surrounded by his family, on 15 November 2023, aged 80 years.
He is survived by Jude, his wife of 31 years, his children Stephen, Jillian, Paddy, and Sam, and his grandchildren Devon, Savannah, Eloise, and Ben.
As funeral celebrant Sue Smith summarised, “Ron will always be admired for the man he was, and he set a great example for his family. With his love, and strength and support, he has left a wonderful legacy.”
Article written by Sheryl Glover, Morrinsville News