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Simon Perkins' Speech

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Simon Perkins' Speech

The Wine Loft, Auckland
Saturday July 17, 2004 Simon Perkins

Welcome to the launch of the Perky Sam Fund in honour of dear Sam who passed away a year ago yesterday. I would like to thank you all very much for coming – especially those of you who have traveled from Melbourne and Christchurch. I would also like to acknowledge Megan and Deidre, who have played a major role in setting up the fund and have organised tonight’s party. Thank you guys very very much.

Everyone who knew Sam will have their own special memories and will be forever inspired by her grace, her dignity, her zest for life, her compassion, wisdom and her wit – words of course don’t go close to painting the complete and beautiful picture that is Sam.

Sam was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s seven years ago, and it is inspiring the way she, not just dealt with the disease, but the way she almost seemed to embrace it – as an opportunity to learn – to learn more about medicine, in particular a holistic approach to medicine, different philosophies, to learn about the power of the mind and more about herself. Sam’s illness eventually took her life – but it never seemed to dampen her spirit – and her spirit will never die and she will continue to inspire and be a huge influence to those who were privileged to know her.

The Perky Sam Fund, with Megan, Deidre, Sarah O’Hagan, Grant East, Oli and I as trustees and with Mum and Dad as settlers of the trust, aims to raise money so that Sam’s influence will extend beyond us, to make a positive contribution to the lives of others. It’s our way of giving something back, on Sam’s behalf, and in her honour.

(The Perky Sam website) will become the focal point of the fund – which will include personal tributes, that everyone is invited to contribute to, Paypal to make online donations, information on the fund and where the money is going, information on past and ‘up coming’ events – which will include pictures from tonight and the other launch parties taking place this weekend in LA and London, and a retail therapy section, initially selling cards featuring some of the amazing photographs Sam took on her travels around the world and NZ.

So the fund will allow Sam’s enormous spiritual presence to have a positive and tangible benefit to the lives of those who are fighting cancer, or to help fund research or potentially provide scholarships to those studying in the field. I know Sam would approve - she was spiritual, but at the same time a pragmatist and a ‘doer’.

I constantly reflect on Sam’s life in total awe of her wisdom and her wit – she had a classic and famous mantra – “I don’t do money and I don’t do time.” - The very two things that clog the minds of us less sophisticated thinkers, consuming us, causing stress and anxiety.

Of course Sam was wise and intelligent enough, that she always seemed to have money and time in abundance, without ever being controlled by their constant requirement. She embraced retail therapy and Buddhist philosophy simultaneously! Like her holistic approach to medicine – she had a holistic approach to life, always maintained an open mind, she was a listener who had a constant enthusiasm for different people, ideas and places.

In the six years since she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s, Sam achieved more than most of us would in a dozen life-times. She completed her medical degree while undergoing radio therapy; she traveled to Mexico, the US and India. She climbed the Himalayas in Nepal and came to Melbourne many times, including for our wedding and Archie’s birthday – she would never miss an event. She worked in London at the Children’s Hospital at Great Ormond Street. She studied Art History at Canterbury University while undergoing chemotherapy and at one stage organised her chemo regime around her great friend Sarah O’Hagan’s wedding – to be there and make a speech that has become legendary. As Sam’s oncologist said when Dad enquired whether the trip to the wedding in the Bay of Islands was a good idea – “I don’t think there is any way we can stop her!”

Sam came to Melbourne to attend the Ian Gawler Centre, where money raised tonight will be donated. I went to pick her up from there and she showed me around with such enthusiasm – explaining all the ideas she had learned and the people she had met. It was a privilege to be there with her – at a place that meant so much to her and inspired her so much.

It changed her life – although only to a point – as she said – “I hope all this spiritual healing stuff doesn’t curb my enthusiasm for shopping!” Of course it didn’t!

Sam’s wit is legendary and where-ever she went she accumulated friends from all walks of life – she could relate to and endear herself to anyone.

One evening in Melbourne she casually announced that a friend – Donlevy Fitzpatrick was coming over. I couldn’t believe it – Donlevy – the famous Melbourne entrepreneur, property developer, and restaurateur. He restored The George Hotel in St Kilda and owns The Melbourne Wine Room, amongst many other things. He was in books and I’d wanted to meet him for years – and now he was coming over to take Sam to meet a famous local chief who was going to give them a cooking demonstration with the new diet they had learned at Ian Gawler.

I immediately started cleaning the apartment – which we had recently renovated – I was hoping like hell he liked it and I started nonchalantly positioning images of my work on the table – which I intended to show him. Sam stopped me in my tracks, ‘Simon’, she explained, ‘the guy is fighting cancer – please don’t stress him out!’ Fair point, I realized. At the same time, there was never any indication or sense from Sam that she was in that position too.

I last saw Sam here in Auckland in May last year when we all met to see Oli’s exhibition at the Bath Street Gallery. Sam was there on opening night as radiant and social as ever – in fact her picture ended up in the social pages of the newspaper – despite the fact that she needed to take an oxygen tank on the plane to get her here.

Sam was and is a legend – and that is the point of this fund – full respect. I would like to finish by reading you an email we received from a friend of Sam’s in London – Ken Robinson, which encapsulates perfectly the obvious need for this fund – the obvious inevitability of its creation due to the inspiration Sam ignites within us.

Can you please charge your glasses so we can toast Sam.

And as she used to write at the end of her letters…’Blue Skies Forever’…to Sam.