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"Michael (Mike) Rogers - 18 April 1952 - 18 April 2017 "

Some people stand out by their sheer physical presence; others are remembered because of their lively personality; and sometimes it is the humility and generosity of spirit that are remembered. Michael (Mike) Rogers will be remembered fondly for possessing all these characteristics. At well over 1.8 metres tall, eternally optimistic and generous to all he will be remembered with fondness by many in Nelson and throughout New Zealand.

In an article about the closure of South Street Gallery Mike was recently described as the ‘go-to man’ of ceramics. But, in so many ways, he was much more than that phase can encapsulate. In his sixty-five years he was a husband, father, grandfather, manager, coach and mentor.

Mike was born 18 April 1952 in Wellington. During his early years he enjoyed the freedom to roam the hills and coastline of Eastbourne and through his extended family discovered his love of dairying in Taranaki. At heart, he was a Taranaki country lad who happened to live near a city. After leaving school he worked for New Zealand Post as a foreman of a cable joining team setting up telecommunications in the Wellington region. Any spare time was spent on the dairy farms of family and friends in Taranaki – his second home.

In 1982 he met and married Barbara Gardner, a Nelson woman, who had moved to Wellington to manage a number of fashion outlets in the city. Following the marriage, and possibly through the influence of Barbara’s father, well-known Nelson potter Justin Gardner, Mike developed an interest in pottery. Eventually, after gaining enough skills, he held an exhibition in Wellington. It was the beginning of his life-long involvement with ceramics.

By 1988, somewhat disillusioned by the damage caused to people’s lives by multiple restructuring at New Zealand Post, Barbara had little difficulty convincing Mike to relocate to Nelson and start a new life as a the owner of South Street Gallery. At the time the gallery was run by Justin who was looking forward to retirement.

Mike’s support of potters in Nelson and further afield became legendary. From repairing kilns to supplying advice on materials, sponsoring pottery exhibitions and of course becoming the most important outlet for the sale of Nelson’s prodigious production of handmade pottery, he played a vital role in the lives of potters in Nelson and around New Zealand. But his generosity did not stop with the potters. Barbara recalls waiting for him to come home one Christmas Eve after shutting the gallery. He was very late, but explained that he had delivered a Christmas tree in a bucket to a newly arrived family from overseas to help them understand what it meant to have Christmas in New Zealand.

Over the life of South Street Gallery Mike employed scores of school students to serve in the gallery over weekends and sometimes during the school holidays. Many of these young people went on to partly fund their tertiary education through their part-time job. The positions were very sought-after because it was known that Mike paid very well. He argued that the job required a great deal of responsibility and therefore should be well renumerated. The former students remember their time at South Street Gallery with great fondness. Each one received a substantial parting gift when they left to pursue further education away from Nelson. He is also remembered with affection by the adult staff who worked for him. All these relationships, and his endless patience when answering customer’s questions, pleased him enormously. He was heard more than once saying that he thought he “should get a real job”.

Mike will also be remembered fondly by the Wanderers Rugby Club and the scouting movement. Always the Taranaki lad at heart, Mike was passionate about rugby. He helped manage and coach teams while his two sons were young and he would never miss a game at Trafalgar Park if it involved Taranaki. Pre-match he could be found chatting with cousins and friends in Trafalgar Street before heading down to the park to watch the game. His devotion to the Scouts almost cost him part of his thumb when he misjudged the swing of an axe. Fortunately, the missing part was reattached and healed successfully.

The Rogers house was always full of friends and relatives and was the place to be for Mike and Barbara’s children’s friends. “He was never boring” – was the comment his children (Morgan, Kelly and Callum) heard most from their friends. When Mike’s health deteriorated he continued to cheer others up. Any visitors showing signs of being downcast would be greeted with a rendition of the Life of Brian theme song – “Always look on the Bright Side of Life” – from Mike’s iPad. According to his family, his most repeated phase was: “Everything is going to be ok.”

Vic Evans
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Ceramics NZ

Registered as an incorporated society in 1965 by an enthusiastic group of potters in Wellington, New Zealand, Ceramics NZ has grown to become a significant international voice in New Zealand ceramics. The affiliation of about three dozen independent pottery clubs throughout New Zealand together with a number of corporate businesses greatly increases its effective membership. We are a national, not-for-profit organisation representing the interests of practising potters and ceramicists, students of ceramics and all those interested in New Zealand ceramics. We actively support and promote quality, and we encourage and support specialist ceramics education nationally.
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