Auckland’s Eucharistic Convention lost one of its stalwarts in tragic circumstances just a few weeks before this year’s convention is to take place. Gary Menzies, described as the “clerk of works” for the eucharistic convention, died at Karekare Beach on Auckland’s west coast on March 11.

According to his brother Kevin, speaking at the funeral at Good Shepherd church in Balmoral a week later, Mr Menzies has been trying to make his way to Paratahi Island, a favourite fishing spot.

“I’m not sure what happened next, but a chasm had been eked out, over head-height, a few metres from the rock, maybe Gary tried to leap over it, never made it,” Kevin Menzies said.

“A wave came along, those famous Karekare rips and currents, let him be brought up again and people came to his assistance”, but to no avail.

At the funeral, Kevin Menzies thanked all those who came to his brother’s aid.

Kevin Menzies described his brother as a fearless man who was honest in his beliefs and was prepared to let it be known.

Eucharistic convention organiser John Porteous told NZ Catholic that Gary Menzies was the convention’s “go to man” and he would be missed.

“If we wanted anything done, Gary was there and we just gave him a call and he did whatever needed to be done,” Mr Porteous said.

“He is going to be a huge loss this year, and I have already to re-arrange how I manage things anyway, because he won’t be there. He was a larger than life character. He was a guy that did the business, and you could rely on him absolutely and without a problem.”

Mr Porteous said Mr Menzies would be remembered in a special way at this year’s convention.

He added that a priest told him Mr Menzies now had a different convention job among the Communion of Saints.

The principal celebrant at the requiem Mass, Fr Rory Morrissey, described Mr Menzies as a good and virtuous man, who nonetheless referred to himself as “the wild thing”.

Fr Morrissey recalled Mr Menzies’ involvement in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the 1970s and the conversion experience he underwent. It was not a question of the “wild thing” being tamed, but rather being trained by the Holy Spirit.

“The Holy Spirit and Our Lady put their reins on him and said, come with us now. He very obediently followed the Holy Spirit,” Fr Morrissey said.

Mr Menzies’ daughter Simone Stephens said her father was a paradox, a wild, feisty man of rock and roll, but he was also a man who was devoted to his faith.

“In recent days I have had many people tell me that Dad was their rock, and often the only person to lift their  burdens.His generosity knew no bounds.”