Christopher David Heads was killed in a motorcycle accident near Rai Valley.
It was a perfect day for riding when Christopher David Heads left his Rai Valley home to meet friends holidaying in Picton.
He was cruising on his treasured V-Rod Harley-Davidson motorbike, bought brand new on a trip to Dunedin.
Rai Valley neighbour Adrian Martin chatted to Heads, known as Chris, before he headed out to State Highway 6.
Martin shared Heads’ love of motorbikes, and that formed the basis of what would be their last yarn.
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The 69-year-old was killed moments after he left, after a collision with a vehicle on Bulford Rd less than two kilometres from his home.
“He died doing what he loved on a beautiful day,” Martin said.
Up the highway in Picton, Peter “Stretch” Callaghan, 50, was holidaying from Australia and looking forward to meeting his old mining mate.
The pair had met 30 years ago while working in the mines of Meekatharra, Western Australia.
“The last message he sent me was, the weather was beautiful,” Callaghan said.
Heads was about 20 years older than his mining mates, and Callaghan said that’s why he earned the name ‘Uncle Cid’.
“We were only 18 or 19 hanging round the pub in the mining town where we met him. It was like the Wild West in those days.”
Everyone who knew Heads knew he loved motorbikes, but Callaghan only learned at his funeral that he also loved bees which made what happened next “quite bizarre”.
“There was a big bunch of flowers at the service, then when we went to the cemetery and opened the back of the hearse, this one single big fat bee flew out of the flowers right there.”
Heads spent years working in Australia before returning to his country of birth and finding his dream spot in Rai Valley.
Older sister Patsy Gordon, who lives in Invercargill, said her brother was looking for a little bit of land when he found the half house-half shed.
“I think he just fell in love with the place.”
He attended his first Bert Munro Challenge motorcycle rally in Southland in 2015 and had not missed one since.
Gordon said the Harley-Davidson her brother was killed on was “the pride and joy of his life”.
He owned two other Harleys, a Sportster and a Fat Boy he had recently sold to a nephew.
“He was right into enjoying his retirement”, Gordon said. “He had so many projects and things he was looking forward to doing.”
Heads had a green thumb and was building raised plots for his garden.
“He was very clever and…an active sort of guy,” his sister said.
Apart from his beloved bike, and whitebaiting with mates, he also enjoyed quieter pursuits like reading or tackling a puzzle.
“When he came down here, and he came down a lot … he and I would spend perhaps an hour doing the cryptics crosswords in the morning.”
Patsy said he was “quite competitive”, making sure he completed any puzzle he started.
One of seven siblings, she said her brother, who was dedicated to family and friends, would be “missed very much”.