Far North mourning pharmacist with a ‘huge heart’


Far North mourning pharmacist with a ‘huge heart’

Jojoa Burling
3 minutes to Read
Eric Shackleton
Kaitaia pharmacist Eric Shackleton at the centenary celebration of Unichem Shackleton’s Pharmacy in 2015

Hardworking, kind, generous, loving and loyal, with a huge heart

The Far North is mourning the loss of former pharmacist and community leader Eric Shackleton.

Mr Shackleton passed away on 18 October after a battle with cancer. He was 78.

Mr Shackleton arrived in Kaitaia in 1973, his first wife and two children in tow, to trial working with Les Greave at Kaitaia Pharmacy with a view of buying into the business. The two got on well, so he bought into the business but had to buy the whole pharmacy soon after, when Mr Greave passed away unexpectedly. The pharmacy was renamed Shackleton’s Pharmacy and has recently become Brown’s Community Pharmacy.

Mr Shackleton met the woman who would become his second wife, Sandra, in 1973 because she worked at a pharmacy on the other side of the road. The two didn’t get together until 1984, after both of their marriages had ended.

By then, the Kaitaia community had “totally embraced him”, says Mrs Shackleton. “They wouldn’t have done that if he hadn’t given off that vibe of being such a good person,” she explains.

She says he was a very caring and compassionate man: “Very family-oriented, accepting of everybody no matter what.”

Passion for the community 

Raewyn Taaffe, who worked for Mr Shackleton for 27 years, says his passing is “an incredibly huge loss to everyone”. She says he “loved the community with a passion” and believed in sponsoring local organisations and helping people.

Mrs Taaffe, who started as a shop assistant and became the retail manager of Shackleton’s Pharmacy, says the pharmacy sponsored everything from tournaments to bowls and tennis clubs, and schools. “He [Mr Shackleton] never said no to anyone,” she says.

“Hardworking, kind, generous, loving and loyal, with a huge heart,” is how she describes her former boss.

The pharmacy had a warm atmosphere, so staff liked working there and customers enjoyed coming into the store.

Mr Shackleton helped his employees fit work around their families and they all knew each other’s children. It was very different to her experience working in Australia, where her colleagues didn’t even know how many children she had, explains Mrs Taaffe.

A very kind boss 

Brown’s Community Pharmacy owner Richard Brown, who worked for Mr Shackleton, says he was a generous man and a very kind boss: “Otherwise I wouldn’t have worked for him for 25 years!”

Mr Brown, who went to Kaitaia as an intern about 30 years ago, says he learned a lot from him: “He was really good with customers and knew what to say or do, giving hugs if that was what was needed in that situation.”

Mr Shackleton was a fun boss, was very social and liked having barbecues with the work team, which was important to him. He also got on well with the local doctors and health professionals, as well as the people he went scuba diving with.

Mr Shackleton sold Shackleton’s Pharmacy to Atif Malkonyan in 2017. Mr Brown and his wife Trish bought it in 2021 and changed the name to Brown’s Community Pharmacy late last month, as per Mr Shackleton’s wishes. The couple also own Kaitaia Far North Pharmacy.

Mr Shackleton found it hard to get away from pharmacy. He retired at 72 but worked as a locum after he sold his business.

Mrs Shackleton says he was asked three times by health authorities to work again when COVID-19 hit. She says the fourth time he said: “Take me off the register, it’s the only way I’m going to get out.”

Involved in many groups

Mr Shackleton’s work in the community included:

  • dive instructing: he also became a master dive instructor, meaning he taught instructors
  • Hato Hone St John: member and chair
  • Justice of the Peace
  • voluntary court work
  • Kaitaia Business Association member
  • Claud Switzer Memorial Trust Rest Home trustee
  • Far North Hospice chair for over 20 years
  • committee member of the genealogy group
  • member of the ham (amateur) radio club
  • chair of the local chapter, American Field Service
  • involvement in the formerly named Computers in Homes for children without access to a computer
  • member of the local toastmasters’ club
  • viticulturist and owner of a boutique vineyard, Waitapu Estate.
Humility to the end 

Mr Shackleton was shocked when his wife suggested holding his funeral at a large community centre in Kaitaia, thinking not many people would want to attend.

“He was so humble, he never believed people would be very bothered with him,” says Mrs Shackleton. He told her the local funeral home, which seats 100 people, would be “just fine”.

However, 400 to 500 people are expected to pack into Te Ahu in Kaitaia for his funeral tomorrow. It has a capacity of 380, meaning there will be standing room only.

Mr Shackleton is survived by his wife Sandra, three sons Garvin, Clive and Stefan, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.