George Phiskie passed away on Sunday 22 July 2018, aged 96, at home in Waipu.
George was a Blind Foundation icon. While a long time Northland resident, he was known up and down the country.
He was the face of the Blind Foundation in Northland and was known for his enthusiasm, his compassion, his never-ending positivity and his wicked sense of humour.
Blind Foundation Chief Executive Sandra Budd says: “George was indeed a special person to us with an amazing history of contribution and support of blind people. His gentle humour, kind heart, positive and amazing can-do attitude were examples and an aspiration to us all.”
She says she personally learnt so much from George, particularly about never letting disability define you, but to define yourself by the abilities you demonstrate in positivity and determination to succeed.
“We will miss him dreadfully as I know will the Whangarei community. George was iconic in our community and was one of the most inspirational blind people I have met.”
Craig Jessop, Blind Foundation adaptive communications adaptive technology services (ACATS) trainer and friend of George’s remembers:
“You only had to mention his name [in Northland] and people would have either met him or knew of him. People used to commonly joke that he was the mayor of Waipu. He had been involved in many projects within Waipu and Whangarei and a lot of these continue today.
“On a personal note, I would not be where I am today if George had not started me in the right direction. He came and saw me in 1990 and immediately made noises to get me to the adult rehab unit that the Blind Foundation ran. The Foundation had a policy back in the day that said that newly blinded people required 12 months to settle prior to rehabilitation. George argued that you had to strike while the iron was hot and had me there three months after losing my sight. I never looked back after that.
“He showed me a word processor that he used to use on the first day I saw him and he said one day you will use one of these. I thought inwardly, you have to be joking, not knowing at that stage that one day I would be an ACATS trainer teaching people how to use their adapted technology.
“Not long ago, I was training George on how to use an iPhone and he stopped and said to me, “You have gone a full circle, do you realise that?”
Blind Foundation Community Engagement Practice Leader, Ali Marshall, shares:
“I never heard him say “no” to a request and in 2010 he was the poster boy for the Blind Foundation’s Blind Week Appeal. What stood out for me was the way that he never let his blindness stop him from living a full and engaged life. He was an incredibly positive role model and someone who was committed to supporting and assisting others to reach their potential. He was a really special person, a true gentleman and someone who made it his business to get along with everyone.”
George came to the Blind Foundation when he was 12, in the mid-1930s. Back then the Foundation operated a school in Parnell, and that is where he did most of his education. After finishing his education, he worked in the workshops at the Blind Foundation and was the housemaster for the boys’ dormitory. He married Marjorie who was the housemaster for the girls’ dormitory.
He went on to run the Blind Foundation’s Whangarei community committee and socials for over 30 years, only stepping down from his role about six years ago.
Craig explains George was known on a worldwide scale as he started taking tourists through the Waipu caves with his guide dogs Barny, Hero and finally Georgie. Tourists would go back to their countries and share this story and he became known in other countries. All funds that he collected on donation basis for his tours were given to Guide dogs.
George was also awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for services to Blind people and the community, and was a finalist in the New Zealander of the Year Local Heroes category in 2009.
On behalf of our community, we mourn the loss and celebrate the life of George Phiskie – a Blind Foundation icon.