Richard Stowers – 11.11.1951 – 20.04.2021
New Zealand lost one of its foremost historians with the passing of Waikato’s Richard Stowers.
A titan in terms of his knowledge around military history, the former Cambridge High School student was a man equally respected as an artist, author and graphic designer. Waipā was where his feet were planted, where he grew and thrived. He then lived in Hamilton for over 40 years until Motor Neurone Disease claimed him at 69.
The many parts that made up the man were celebrated at a farewell in Hamilton on April 27. Officiant Robyn Riddle said Richard would be remembered for his love and talent for the arts, writing, the great outdoors, and his readiness to go out of his way to help others. “He had so many facets … so many talents.”
Richard’s wife Gill recalled meeting him before her 20th birthday. Richard was then almost 27, a ‘handsome, tall man with the most intense blue eyes’. The pair married in 1981. “He was incredibly disciplined,” she said, always deftly allocating time to the family’s activities along with his work and his other interests.
Son Craig said his dad loved New Zealand’s bush. He was a wonderful teacher who fostered curiosity in his children. “Nothing excited dad more than when one of us kids wanted to build something.”
Lifelong friend David Speedy recalled heady days from their youth – gathering rabbit pelts for bounty, crafting bows and arrows, and blowing things up with gunpowder.
Richard’s interest in military history was sparked at a young age. He went on to author numerous books on the New Zealand Wars, the Boer War and Gallipoli. He also wrote a book detailing his father Bob’s piloting of Wellington bombers in World War Two.
Historian Hugh Keene and journalist Kingsley Field referenced Richard’s passion for history. Hugh described him as ‘focused, authentic, meticulous’ in his research; Richard had become the first historian, he said, to uncover the correct number of Kiwis at Gallipoli. “Official records had underestimated that number at 8500. Richard’s research confirmed the number was double that.”
Kingsley Field, with whom Richard co-authored the book Waipa: Home of Champions, said he was astounded at Richard’s ‘extraordinary’ ability to take old photographs and make something out of almost nothing.
His skilled research led to Richard becoming an honorary member of the Waikato Mounted Rifles, and his contribution to local history and genealogy was honoured by the Waipā District Council, Cambridge Armistice Association and Hamilton City Council.
He is survived by his wife Gill, their five children and a new-born grandchild.