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Buddy Lucas 1931-2002

Posted by SC Comments Off on Buddy Lucas 1931-2002

Buddy (Fredrick Ross) Lucas 22 May 1931-18 October 2002

There was shock when news spread that Buddy Lucas was seriously ill and disbelief when this fit, vigorous man died. Around 500 gathered at Piha Surf Club to farewell Buddy and watch him to take his last circuit around Piha – this time in the Westpac Helicopter instead of walking his dogs.

Buddy was the only child of  Ida (born Oxspring) and  Freddy Lucas, a former All Black in the legendary Invincibles, who first came to Piha with friends Monte and Selma Winter and camped in the camping ground. The Lucases built a bach a few doors from the surf club, which Buddy made his home when he retired.

He grew up in Owairaka and went to Kowhai Intermediate and Mt Albert Grammar. He loved swimming from an early age, learning by paddling up and down in the Blue Pool and then had formal lessons from the legendary ‘Professor’ Anderson at the Tepid Baths, and later Reg Thomas. He was the swimming champion at Mt Albert Grammar, and went on to win national championships and a place in the 1950 British Empire Games squad when the Games, the first since 1938, were held in Auckland. The 880 yards freestyle relay team of which Buddy was a member took first place, and Buddy also won bronze in both the 440 yards freestyle (a New Zealand record) and 1,650 yards freestyle events.

The following year Buddy became the first New Zealander to win a swimming scholarship to an American university when he went to Iowa State University to train under the top US coaches. Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey recalled how glamorous Buddy seemed to the young surfers who used to gather at the Lucases menswear store in Queen Street, when Buddy came home with an all American blond flat top.

In a controversial decision, Buddy was not chosen for the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, but at the 1954 Empire Games in Vancouver he won a silver as part of the medley relay team, swimming the freestyle leg.

He was a glorious natural swimmer and Ron Cooper spoke at the funeral of watching a pod of dolphins joining Buddy surfing on the waves, soon after he came back from America with a revolutionary dolphin kick.

Buddy had joined Piha Surf Club in 1944 and in 1949-50 won the junior national surf race and in 1951 the senior surf race. On his return from the US in 1957 he devoted himself to surf life saving, following his father’s record to become club captain (1970-71) and then president from 1972-89. His peers honoured him by awarding him life membership of Piha and Auckland surf lifesaving. He was a member of the Greypower patrol at Piha at the time of his death.

Over a decade ago Buddy retired to Piha where he lived with son Greg, and then Greg’s wife Sian and babies. He was a strength to his whole family – Greg, Sian, Brad and Sue, Liane and AJ, and adored his grandchildren – Cody, Callum, Staci, Dana and Shae.

Many at the funeral commented on Buddy’s daily walk around Piha with his beloved dogs. It was as if he was checking up that everything was in harmony and order in Piha and that at the end of the day he needed to know all was well in his world. He  had a wave for everyone he passed and would often stop for a chat. People remember Buddy as someone who was not harsh or critical but always had a kind, friendly word. He managed to keep above the rows, arguments, factions and feuds at Piha. Friend Rodger Curtice said at his funeral that he was ‘modest in victory and generous in defeat, Buddy set an outstanding example as a sportsman and his quiet demeanour made him popular with thousands of New Zealanders.’

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