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Keith George Hales, 1948 - 2015

By John Brandts-Giesen

Keith Hales, a well-known and colourful lawyer, died on 31 December 2015, aged 67.

Keith prided himself on being a "Strowan boy", although in his youth that part of the city was still known as Papanui! He attended Christchurch Boys' High School and graduated from Canterbury University while employed in the Trust Department of NZI.

In 1976 he joined Helmore Bowron & Scott (now Helmore Stewart) and soon thereafter became a partner.

Keith was a versatile lawyer, one of a dying breed of general practitioners who could run an effective jury trial and complete a complicated subdivision. He did sterling work as a Youth Advocate and Lawyer for Children. Keith served as a judge of the Judicial Racing Authority which governs the codes of the gallops, harness and greyhound racing.

He worked hard and played hard. He was a good lawyer who prepared his files carefully and presented his case with style. Keith was the model small-town lawyer and built close relationships with many people.

The Law, however, was only one part of his life. In his earlier years he was on stage with the Rangiora Dramatic Society, became a top polling two-term councillor of the now defunct Rangiora Borough, and later, with his wife Miranda, a strong supporter of the visual arts.

When already over the age of 40, he learnt to ride (horses) and joined the Brackenfield Hunt. He served on the Northern A&P Association Committee for 15 years and was appointed a Paul Harris Fellow for his services to the community by the Rotary Club of Rangiora. He was an ex-president of the North Canterbury Racing Club. 

Keith was the founding Chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters in North Canterbury and her nurtured that into a strong and effective child/youth mentoring service.

For a number of years until his death, Keith was the Honorary Consul for Mexico. This enabled Miranda and him to travel to Mexico City and be introduced to the President. He looked after the interests of Mexicans living or visiting the South Island.

Keith's (and others') submissions to save the Rangiora Court (to say nothing of its Helmore's Seat which he guarded with sometimes excessive zeal) were ultimately unsuccessful. Ironically, its closure coincided with the onset of his final illness. He fought that illness with equal vigour.

While having retired from his partnership, he carried on valiently as a consultant until a few weeks before his death. He orchestrated his large open-air funeral with the finesse of a Maestro.

Keith is survived by Miranda, his daughters Virgina and Fran, and two infant grandsons.

This obituary was published in the February 2016 issue of Canterbury Tales, the monthly magazine of the Canterbury-Westland branch of the New Zealand Law Society.

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Last updated on the 24th February 2016