My name is Nigel. Hugh wasn't just my eldest friend, he was also one of my oldest. I have known him for nearly half of my life.
When I was 14, I used to do a paper run in the Waterloo area. There was one house that had requested that the paper be delivered to the door, and soon enough I was chatting to the guy whenever I brought the paper. It turned out he played cards with the old paper boy, and he invited me in to play as well. At first I was wary, but eventually I decided to give it a go.
He taught me 500, and served afternoon tea. It soon became a Tuesday tradition. I modified my paper run route so I would deliver to his place last, so I wouldn't have to worry about the 5pm delivery deadline. My brother Pete eventually met Hugh too and we'd play cards together, sometimes with others coming as well.
Eventually, Hugh became a friend to the whole family. He came to watch some of our football matches, the parents would organise him coming to the Movies with us all, and we would have him over for Boxing day to play cards at our place.
I remember one time in particular where Hugh and I were partners, playing doubles. The very first hand, we went down eight hearts, minus 300. That's a long way down towards a humiliating defeat. But, three hours and at least 20 hands later, we won that game. Given that we normally played a few games in an afternoon, I imagine that day might have gone on for a long time!
I left the paper run to work at the local supermarket, but still went to see Hugh for cards. Even when I moved to Wellington, we would still play, although less frequently.
The last time we played was on Sunday. I beat him - he has trained me well - and we talked about old movies and current news. He knew about the earthquakes in Iran - he was always up to date with current events, and an interesting man to talk to. I'm told that Pete went to see him on Monday, and a 10 no trump hand was dealt - an incredibly rare occurance, an instant victory, which I think only happened once previously in all the time we've played.
Hugh taught me an important lesson. Don't be afraid to try and make new friends, no matter how unlikely the friendship may seem. If he hadn't have extended the hand of friendship to a 14 year old boy, our whole family would have missed out on many years of enjoyment and company.
So Hugh - thank you. For all the cards, the lesson, and our friendship.
I'll miss you, buddy.
I was honoured to be able to speak at Hugh's funeral on Friday. The above is roughly what I said. I was also very honoured to be a pallbearer along with my brother and father.
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