New Zealand Law Society - Vernon Henry Peters, 1928 - 2013

Vernon Henry Peters, 1928 - 2013

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Vernon Peters died on 9 August 2013. He practised law for over 50 years and has been described as a consummate lawyer, a man of absolute probity who served his clients faithfully and well for his entire career.

Vernon Peters was a partner in Wellington firm O’Regan Arndt Peters and Evans for more than 50 years. In 1998 he and his wife Margaret moved to Waiheke Island where he continued to practise law in a more relaxed way until a few months before his death.

Vernon Peters was born in Ohura in the King Country on 10 November 1928, the youngest of three children. He and his family lived in relatively straitened circumstances on a farm in Ohura until about 1940. Vernon’s story from this time was that he was up at 5am every morning for milking before walking five miles to school. Whether apocryphal or not, this set the tone of hard work which characterised Vernon’s life.

He attended Ohura District High School before moving to St Patrick’s College, Wellington to study for University Entrance. He studied law at Victoria University and enjoyed playing rugby and boxing.

He worked as a law clerk with Hogg Gillespie Carter & Oakley while helping out in the family business. He was called to the bar in February 1956.

In that year he joined the firm CJ O’Regan & Arndt, subsequently O’Regan Arndt Peters and Evans, to handle much of the firm’s property law, conveyancing, wills and trusts work. He became a partner in 1962. The prominent lawyers in the firm, Con O’Regan and Harry Arndt, were mentors to Vernon and for whom he had the greatest respect and affection.

The firm had a substantial union practice, looking after all legal affairs, personal injury and employment matters, and Vernon became a vital part of this work. He took over the firm’s work for the New Zealand Coal Miners’ Union and the New Zealand Seafarers’ Union and was solicitor for the Federation of Labour and the Council of Trade Unions. The beautiful flowers that adorned Vernon’s coffin came from the Maritime Union and attested to the respect in which he was held.

He was a faithful member of the Catholic Church and worked hard to assist in church affairs and in the service of Catholic charities.

When his brother Ned, who owned a large Wellington bakery, died suddenly in 1976, Vernon ran the bakery until the mid-1980s while continuing his legal practice. He also turned his hand to horse breeding at this time, maintaining another of Ned’s ventures.

In a eulogy presented at the funeral on behalf of the whole family, his daughter Julia said: “Dad devoted his life to Mum, his family and the practice of law, all underpinned by his strong faith. Instinctively his sympathies lay with those less fortunate. Dad was astute, a person of great integrity and never lost the ‘common touch’.”

Partner of many years and friend, regional coroner Garry Evans, said Vernon Peters was a very fine lawyer who served his clients in the “ethos of those days”, looking after their interests in all ways, “applying all the attributes one would expect of such a conscientious and industrious lawyer.

“He was a man of absolute probity – if you left a ten shilling note with him it would still be there forty years later with interest.”

Vernon Peters is survived by his wife Margaret and their seven children, four of whom are members of the legal profession.

This obituary was first published in Council Brief, October 2013.

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