45 years! … but not one to be bolted down

You could say Jack Hooper is somewhat of a godfather figure here at LIC, where he’s constantly shared his knowledge, ideas, and leadership style with colleagues, customer-facing staff, and farming shareholders.

Last month Jack retired, and we wish him all the very best for his new ventures.

After serving the same employer for more than four decades, Jack Hooper’s leaving us with a strut in his step and satisfaction in his smile.

He’s not going to miss the place, he says.

But the cagey smile slowly fades, the eyes go skyward, and his voice goes down an octave:

“I leave permanent employment with no regrets or sad feelings, because it’s a career in which I’ve been provided with a chance to follow a passion, have countless opportunities, enjoyment, and reward at the end of the day.

“I haven’t been bolted down in my roles here. People have known what I can contribute, and I’ve had a lot of freedom with LIC. I’m happy that I’ve given.”

His career has over the years taken him throughout rural New Zealand, as well as across the globe, travelling throughout Australia, Europe, and North America. He’s also travelled with family to Ireland and through Asia.

But in retirement he’s got closer destinations in-mind.

“I’ve never been to Great Barrier Island or Waiheke Island, so I want to have a few three-day weekends. I plan to have one of those every month.

“And I’m going to do one-day of community service a week, probably at the velodrome where there’s trike classes for adults, for people recovering from things like knee- and hip-replacements.”

Jack enjoys cycling himself – his home in Cambridge is surrounded by quality cycleways.

A self-described avid sports fan, brought about participating in his youth as cricketer and rugby player, he says he’ll watch almost any sport on television, and plans to do plenty more of that.

He’s heavily involved in indoor bowls – he has been a national umpire and is past president of the Eastern sub-centre (a collection of local clubs). Currently, he’s in his third year as president of Waikato Indoor Bowls.

Jack’s also going to set his sights on plenty more gardening, a genuine passion he shares with his great mate of 30 years, Robert (Ace) Dance.

“We grow veges together,” Ace says.

“Jack puts in the seed and gets them going at his house, then we’ll transplant them in my patch – we’ll be doing the cabbages and caulis today, for example. We grow a truckload, and we give them away to neighbours and friends – it’s always a challenge to get rid of it all.

“Jack loves it, as I do. He’s got a bad back and can’t bend like normal people, but it doesn’t stop him gardening – last week we dug the spuds.”

‘Bad back’ is a slight understatement. Several years ago Jack had a major operation, where significant build-up of calcium had grown down his lower spine, and around his spinal cord.

“The condition’s proper name is spinal stenosis,” Jack says. “I don’t know what caused it, they think I may have had a broken back at some stage.

“The operation was to fuse my vertebrae. I’ve got two steel rods down either side of my vertebrae, with a line of 45mm screws going through and steel cages in between them, holding it all together. It was a six-hour operation and that’s limited me a bit in recent years.”

There’s little doubt too that Jack will enjoy more time with his family.

He and wife Linda have two children – Nicola, a vet based in Wellington, and Stephen, a technical manager for Logic Wireless, which sees him setting up communications for one of the SailGP yachts (an international race series run by Russell Coutts and American tycoon Larry Ellison).

Stephen lives in Christchurch with wife Bex and daughters Summah, 7, and Ruby, 5, so regular trips to the South Island look set to continue for Jack and Linda.

It was in the early 1970’s, when Jack met Linda at the Morrinsville Rugby Club (he played on the wing and at 2nd 5/8th). At the time Jack was in his first placement as a dairy consulting officer.

They couple got married in 1976, and almost immediately after that they moved to Rotorua for three years when Jack was transferred to the area with his work.

“He grew up in Kaitaia,” Linda says, “so when his consulting role was shifted from Rotorua up north to Whangarei, he was more than a little familiar with Northland.”

From Northland, Jack was in 1981 “pulled back to Hamilton when LIC’s main office was transferred from Wellington,” Linda says.

“John Murray (executive manager of Herd Improvement) wanted him to lead Livestock Selection until Harvey Tempero (sire selection manager) could make it Hamilton.

“He’s never considered changing his employer – he’s got a real sense of loyalty and belief in what he and LIC does.”

Footnote: Despite his official retirement, Jack will continue his association with LIC by working as an independent contractor the organisation, and he remains as a member of the cooperative’s Breeding Advisory Group.