By Dinah Kennedy
Tony Taunt was a special man.
His death at the age of 54 has left us with a sense that something unique has gone.
Tony came late to the legal profession. He had started work as a fitter/welder, then, after a number of positions got into the logging industry where he was a leading hand.
When he had the motorcycle accident in which he lost his leg, his employment options were severely limited.
He had problems with ACC and after an early success battling them (one of many) he decided to pursue the study of law at Victoria University of Wellington. He continued successfully (assisted by barrister Steve Manning who also lectured him at university) to get ACC to fund his studies and eventually graduated with his Bachelor of Laws at the end of 2004. He did his Legal Professionals course in Wellington and then went to work for the Community Law Centre in Hastings followed by a 12-month stint with John McDowell in Napier as a staff solicitor.
I first met Tony in 2006 when I interviewed him for a job as a staff solicitor at Bramwell Grossman in Hastings. He got the job and came to work for me for the next four years until he decided to go out on his own at the independent bar. In a sense his legal life came full circle when he set up his bar practice at the offices of his old mentor John McDowell.
When he worked at Bramwell Grossman he undertook work in civil litigation and family law, with the occasional venture into criminal law. He also assisted clients in the buying and selling of property, taking will instructions and all that general work expected of provincial lawyers. He became familiar with the mental health jurisdiction and continued to do that and family law work at the bar.
Even though he worked from Napier he remained on friendly terms with the Hastings solicitors he had worked with when practising there and would often drop into our office for a catch-up, or a coffee over at the Opera Cafe.
There was the touch of the larrakin about Tony. He was never one to obey meaningless rules and when he had the big heart attack in 2013, walked out of the local hospital one night and later discharged himself from Wellington Hospital when he thought he had had enough.
He was never one to complain about discomfort. I know his prosthesis gave him significant discomfort a lot of the time but I never once heard him complain. You always got the impression that he did not care much about his health; there were too many trips to make on the back of that bike with his mates.
He accepted people for who they were and remained loyal to old friends who might have caused some eyebrows to raise among the legal fraternity.
He was proud to call Helen his wife and enjoyed the fact that she was such a vibrant personality. He wanted the best for his children: Emma and Simon here in Hawke's Bay and Josh in Australia, and he talked about them often over the years. The arrival of grandchildren brought a special joy to his life.
Because of his unassuming, cheerful and no-nonsense approach to life he was well liked by the legal profession here in Hawke's Bay. He was completely original. He was, and will continue to be, a source of inspiration and a shining example of what one man with determination and application and sheer doggedness can achieve.
Valé my learned friend and special person - Valé Tony.
Tony Taunt, 31 May 1960 - 22 January 2015.
This obituary was first published in the March 2015 newsletter of the Hawke's Bay branch of the New Zealand Law Society.