By Graham Wear
Partners at the Auckland law firm Glaister Ennor chose a novel way to farewell Bob Narev, who was retiring after 50 years at the firm, initially as an employee, then a partner, senior partner and most recently as a consultant.
At an Auckland Grammar School fund-raising auction, they were the successful bidders for the services of former TV personality John Hawkesby – like Bob Narev, an old boy of the school – who fronted a This Is Your Life presentation at Langham Hotel before an invited dinner audience of 175 colleagues, friends, family members and clients.
With the connivance of his wife Freda and everyone at the office, Bob Narev was kept in the dark about the function, believing that he was going be the guest of honour at a small dinner to be attended by the firm's 10 partners and their partners.
Instead, he was greeted by John Hawkesby and a television camera operator when he and Mrs Narev came into the foyer and escorted into the ballroom to a standing reception by the guests, who had been watching the couple's arrival on big screens.
For the next 90 minutes, John Hawkesby went through Bob Narev's life, bringing a range of guests onto the stage to share their reminiscences. They included family members who had flown in from Australia for the occasion. Others from overseas who were not present in person extended their greetings via the big screens.
Jack Porus, the firm's managing partner and Bob Narev's nephew, wrote the script for the presentation.
The family connection was referred to by language researcher Max Cryer, a Howick primary school friend of Bob Narev, whom John Hawkesby brought to the stage to explain the origin of the term ‘Bob's your uncle’. (It is a probable reference to the successful career of Arthur Balfour, who was promoted by his uncle, 19th century British Prime Minister Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, to a succession of political appointments.)
Bob Narev's life has had more than enough drama for a TV show. It was, in fact, the subject of a half-hour interview by Kathryn Ryan on National Radio's Nine to Noon programme on the morning after the This Is Your Life presentation.
Born to Jewish parents in Germany in 1935, he spent much of the war in a Nazi concentration camp near Prague. He and his mother survived the ordeal, although his father and other relatives were not so fortunate, and in 1947 they arrived in New Zealand, a country he described as "paradise". He spoke no English but, after a short spell at primary school, he went on to Auckland Grammar where, four years later, he topped the school's scholarship list.
Bob Narev joined the staff of Glaister Ennor while still at university and became one of Auckland's most successful commercial lawyers. He has made frequent appearances in court in the role of expert witness.
Although he and his family have played an active part in Jewish religious and social life over the decades, he is a director of the Christian Healthcare Trust, and delights in the irony of the fact that when he was appointed a notary public by the Archbishop of Canterbury (later becoming president of the Society of Notaries), he received formal notification addressed to "our beloved in Christ".
He is founding chair of the Kiwi Income Property Trust, New Zealand's biggest, with $1.4 billion assets.
Although he has formally retired, Bob Narev has retained his practising certificate and makes himself available for advice to his loyal clients.
This article was first published in LawTalk 679, 4 December 2006, page 17.