‘Ya gotta do it? Then get it done‘

8 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMarch 8, 2019

When well-respected Hawke‘s Bay farmer, orchardist, transport operator, father and grandfather John ‘Emmo‘ Emmerson passed away, for grandson Shaun there was only one fitting way to send off his granddad with due respect.

They say the measure of a man is gauged by how many people arrive at his funeral; well, using that analogy as a guide, Emmo was quite a man. Talking with the family it becomes blazingly obvious how the core family values that Emmo stood by also traversed his friendships and business relationships.

Photo: Frantic preparations but there was no doubt they‘d ‘get it done!‘

Photo: The late John Emmerson. An old-school businessman – people and handshakes.

Emmerson Transport Ltd as it stands today evolved through necessity, from very early small beginnings on the family farm as it transitioned to an orchard. This journey for Emmo brought about many business dealings, which in turn developed many long-standing friendships along the way. One such friend is Bruce Stephenson of Waipawa‘s Stephenson Transport Ltd. Talking with Emmo‘s grandson, Shaun, you soon discover the strength of the bond. “If stock had to be shifted either onto or off the farm, there was only one type of truck allowed to do the job and that would be one with a maroon cab and green stock crate from Waipawa,” said Shaun.

It was in 1977 when Emmo, along with his two sons, Ian and Peter, seized the opportunity and Emmerson Transport Ltd was formed. The transport business grew from strength to strength, with a copious amount of hard graft as well as bucket loads of passion for the transport industry by the team. Emmo‘s passion is especially evident through the years he worked within various industry organisations. Twenty-five years of service to the Road Transport Association – Hawke‘s Bay branch, with some of those years served as chairman. Seven years as director of CARTA (Central Area Regional Transport Association), as well as seven years on the board of the Road Transport Forum. An admirable effort that is worthy of the respective life memberships to all three organisations that Emmo received, not forgetting his induction into the New Zealand Road Transport Hall of Fame in 2012.

Emmo passed away on Friday 23 February 2018, just four days shy of his 85th birthday. The family sat down together on the Saturday to reflect and then start piecing together the funeral plans. What became plain to see, as word made its way around family and friends, was the magnitude of the event ahead. Emmo‘s son Ian said with a laugh, “there is no way Dad would have wanted anyone to stop work and be unproductive mid-week for his funeral!”, so the decision was made to hold the service and celebration of Emmo‘s life the following Saturday. At this time the funeral director asked what style of hearse the family would like to see Emmo transported in, to which Shaun suggested a large green and white Aerodyne, one with a bright red chassis. Shaun‘s uncle, Peter, and father, Ian, both agreed it was by far the most appropriate option for Emmo.

Photo: Ian (left) and Shaun Emmerson.

A plan was hatched then and there to set to work on Shaun‘s own mount within the fleet, number 4, a Cat C15 powered Kenworth K104 Aerodyne 8×4 tractor unit, and dress it appropriately for the task. There was no doubt for Shaun that it would be a big week and a big task; it was Emmo‘s own mantra that drove Shaun through the project. Shaun said that Emmo had always told them, “if ya gotta do it – then get it done”. Shaun spent the best part of the first two days stripping the chassis, as well as cleaning and degreasing the unit ready for the paint shop. It was then off to Jock the painter for a new coat of red for the chassis. As soon as it was dry enough the unit was returned back to the Emmerson Transport workshops at Orchard Road in Hastings, where Shaun and the team set about putting number 4 back together again. While doing so, plenty of elbow grease was applied to ensure a solid lustre on all the shiny bits for the journey on the big day.

While the refurbishment of number 4 was being completed, word made it out onto the street that Emmo would be riding in style with Shaun at the helm. It was not long before offers to join the procession and form a convoy of honour for Emmo were being fielded. We all understand the cost having a unit off the road for a day, and with this in mind Shaun tells how 30-plus rigs put all that aside and made their way along so they could accompany Emmo. It was an amazing sight to see, said Ian.

Photo: There was only one fitting way for the family to send ‘Emmo‘ on his way.

A tribute from Bruce Stephenson
“I had the pleasure of sharing many happy hours with John, often avoiding the burning rubber and diesel fumes of the younger guys, except of course when we would tell them how ‘we used to do it‘. “John was incredibly loyal to those who supported him, did not suffer fools and certainly acted up to his quote ‘if you gotta do it, then get it done‘. His energy supporting the road transport industry seemed tireless. “It was a proud and humble day for Stephenson Transport to have a rig in the funeral procession in honour of such a fine gentleman who had been so dedicated to our Industry.”