Not much gets past Derek Beveridge, but the Squadron 26 (Oamaru) Air Training Corps managed to give their commander a big surprise at the weekend.
On Saturday night, Mr Beveridge thought he was going out for a family dinner at Fat Sally’s, but realised something was up when the car he was in started driving down Harbour St.
As Mr Beveridge and his family arrived at the Loan and Merc building, they were greeted by a guard of honour and a haka from Mr Beveridge’s squadron corps to celebrate his 35 years of service to the squadron.
The skirl of the bagpipes led him into the building for a surprise function attended by more than 40 people, including Air Training Corps members from throughout New Zealand and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher.
‘‘Flabbergasted. I’m surprised,’’ Mr Beveridge said of the event.
Mr Beveridge, who has been the squadron’s commander since 2003, knew his anniversary was coming up this month, but never expected a celebration. He was humbled by the community recognition.
‘‘One does what one does because someone has to do it.’’
Throughout the years, Mr Beveridge, who was a police sergeant for 42 years, has supported countless young people, and given them life experiences through the corps. It was those memories and the fun along the way that stuck with him, he said.
He was grateful for the support of his wife, Jenifer, children Anna and Andrew, and son-in-law Nigel Moriarty.
Flight sergeant Mike Innes said the corps required officers to complete 160 hours per year — and Mr Beveridge’s hours for 2022 already came to 491.
In the past 35 years, Sgt Innes estimated Mr Beveridge had put in 43,000 hours just for the cadet force — not including the work he did with the police, scout groups, and the Waitaki Safer Community Trust.
Originally from Scotland, Mr Beveridge moved to New Zealand aged 12, and has lived in Oamaru for 36 years. He planned to be here for five years, but Oamaru had been good to him and his family and they never left, he said.
He became involved in the corps through the police, hosting firearms training for the squadron.
After having his arm twisted by former commander Andrew Wilson and a few others, he joined the squadron in May 1986. Mr Beveridge got several other police officers involved through the years.
He progressed through the various ranks and in May 1998 he was awarded the cadet forces medal, and received medal clasps in 2006 and 2014.
In 2003, Mr Beveridge took over from Mr Wilson as commander, and in 2006 he was awarded the New Zealand Cadet Forces commandant commendation. In 2014, Mr Beveridge received a Queen’s Service Medal.
Mr Wilson said Mr Beveridge had a profound impact on the squadron, and young people, right from the start.
‘‘Oamaru owes a lot to him,’’ Mr Wilson said.
‘‘He brought in some of the young people that needed . . . a bit of discipline. I think it broadens the sort of youth that come in.’’
Mr Beveridge changed the way the squadron ran, and had many great ideas, but it always came back to one thing — the people.
‘‘His heart’s in it for the kids, for the youth,’’ Mr Wilson said.
‘‘He works very hard in all sorts of ways to make sure that they stay on the right track and do the right thing and get he best out of life.’’
Mr Kircher thanked Mr Beveridge for his service to the community.
‘‘We’re a better community for the work that you’ve done,’’ Mr Kircher said.
‘‘It doesn’t happen without people like you.’’