A well-known figure in Canterbury boxing has died from coronavirus after being moved to Burwood Hospital from Rosewood retirement home.
Bernard William Pope,78, died at hospital on Friday. He is one of six Rosewood Rest Home and Hospital residents to die from coronavirus. A further 14 residents from the rest home’s dementia unit remain at Burwood.
One of New Zealand’s most successful amateur coaches, Phil Shatford, was coached by Pope, who also trained a number of New Zealand senior champions.
“I owe Bernie a hell of a lot for where I’ve got in boxing,” Shatford said.
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The pair became “very close friends” after giving up boxing, having Christmas dinner together and visiting the cemetery together nearly every year from 1974 until a couple of years ago.
“It’s pretty tough stuff when you can’t say your goodbyes properly, it just seems like it’s pretty hard to put closure on the whole thing. Bernie and I went through a hell of a lot together.
“You’d never pick that one of your best buddies and your coach would get taken by the virus.”
Pope’s brother, Fred Pope, told Stuff on Wednesday he last visited his younger brother at Rosewood about a week before he died.
Pope would visit about twice a week, bringing with him a chocolate fish and a razor to give his brother a shave. Bernard Pope’s health had deteriorated since December when the family thought he was going to die.
“It was just normal. I just spoke to him as I left, said ‘Are you alright’, he would look right through you and he just wandered off around the corner. I just thought ‘oh well he’s going away to his bed now or wherever he was going to go’ and I went away and left him.
“That’s just all it was. I was sad I never [got to see] him again.”
Pope and 19 other residents at Rosewood were moved to Burwood Hospital on April 6 after one of them was found to have coronavirus. Pope was the second of the six to die, his brother said.
Fred Pope said it was unclear how Covid-19 made its way into the rest home, but added his brother was a “very sick man”, before he contracted the virus.
“They all are. I have no doubt in my mind that there will be more of them that will die, they’ve got no resistance to it, those poor people.
“That’s just the nature of this bloody beast.”
Pope praised the staff at Rosewood and Burwood Hospital who were “absolutely wonderful”. He said one of the nurses at Burwood called another brother regularly with updates on his condition.
His brother, whose wife also has dementia and is staying in a separate rest home, was diagnosed with dementia in 2016.
He escaped twice from the first rest home he stayed in, jumping over the fence in consecutive days. He then went to a rest home in Rangiora, North Canterbury, before his condition worsened and he was reassessed as needing hospital care. He spent the last 18 months of his life at Rosewood.
“He wasn’t going to come out of there,” Fred Pope said.
He said the family was still coming to terms with their loss.
“It’s bloody awful, but you’ve just got to go with the flow.”
The Canterbury Boxing Association paid tribute to Pope in a post on its Facebook page.
Pope coached the New Brighton Returned and Services’ Association (RSA) Boxing Club and Crichton Cobbers Club.
“Many of the boxers today will know Bernie as the man whom gloves their hands up ready to compete … Bernie was the glove steward at 100s of tournaments encouraging everyone to do their best,” the post said.
Rosewood is owned by Malcolm and Lynda Tucker. They have been approached for comment multiple times.
In a statement on behalf of the operators, Mike Kyne said on Tuesday the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) had “full authority and control” over the Rosewood residents at Burwood Hospital.
“I assure you [Rosewood’s operators] acknowledge and have extended their thoughts and deepest sympathy to the families of those that have passed away.”