Sir Edmund Hillary died on Friday at the age of 88. He was a hero and a man of the people and I wanted to join the millions of people speaking his praises and remembering his deeds. He is remembered by most people as the man who conquered Mt Everest and many other peaks around the world, but he did so much more.
Most people who climb mountains (and I am wildly generalizing here) spend most of their lives climbing, travelling writing books and enjoying their sport. Very few give something back, unless you consider the litter they leave on the beautiful mountansides as a legacy.
Sir Edmund left a poor country much richer for his efforts. He appreciated the assistance that the Sherpa people gave him and formed the Himalayan Trust to help them help themselves. Through the generosity of other people and under Hillary’s guidance the trust built 2 hospitals and 27 schools. A better role model and representative you would struggle to find, especially for a sporting personality.
He was a humble man and one of simple needs. His philosophy was along the lines of, if you are going to do something, do it well and do it quietly with little fuss.
In New Zealand the public has been clambering for a public holiday in his honor, or perhaps a Hero’s Day where we could remember him and other people who have left a legacy worthy of recognition. I’ll probably get shot down in flames for saying this, but I would propose that Waitangi Day, the day we remember the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the Maori people is turned back into New Zealand day where we remember all the people who made this country what it is, from the sailors and settlers to the great leaders of Maoridom through to the athletes, the scientists and everyoe that makes a difference in a positive way.
Back to Sir Ed, please don’t misconstrue this, but I found him to be a particularly boring writer, but struggled through his biography of his quest and success in the scaling of Mt Everest. It was a dogged slog of a read, but I guess it also indicative of the singlemindedness that made him successful. I think the only sports book that I have read that was on a par to that would be the Sir Richard Hadley biography which was a list of statistics, which again illustrated the dogged one track focus of a highly successful and much loved sportsman. I loved to watch you play, but I struggled with your book sir:)
So Sir Edmund, it is now time to rest. Your body lies In State and people are lining up around the country to sign books of remembrance and I think your family will still be surprised at the depth of feeling and fondness Kiwi’s have of you. You will have a State Funeral which you wouldn’t want in a thousand years, but it’s no longer up to you. Rest in peace and know that the world is so much better off for the time you spent with us and your legacy will never be forgotten, in New Zealand, in Nepal and anywhere that people climb mountains both personal and physical.