Rev Helene Mann, who died unexpectedly two days ago in Dunedin Hospital, always announced herself, when she came into the shop I managed (OC Books), as 'your favourite customer'. And in many ways she was. From a purely retail point of view, she could be guaranteed to buy at least one book on each visit, but would more likely buy several. But it wasn't just her book-buying that made her visits interesting: it was her conversation. Invariably we would discuss something of interest: books, theology, Celtic Christianity (one of her favourite subjects and one she studied, and one she introduced me to), her enthusiasm for Pelagius, Anglicanism and a host of other subjects.
Like many of my customers, she became a friend. We'd meet on the street and talk, or meet at a conference and talk. It was never just a case of retailer and customer, but much more. She was one of the many people I missed when I left the shop, although we occasionally had a chance meeting afterwards, including just the other day when my wife and I met her in South Dunedin. She didn't look well (and hadn't done for some time), but was still bustling her way forward, trying to keep up with the many tasks she took on.
She was short, but made up for it in seemingly boundless energy, even when her health knocked her back. She was intellectually sharp, and though we crossed swords very occasionally, in general our relationship was one of humour and the enjoyment of catching up again. I will miss seeing her - as I'm sure hundreds of others will. May she rest in the peace of her Creator, and enjoy His company eternally.
PS - 14.1.12
Just been informed by Jim Mann, Helene's husband, that he read this post after his relatives in Wales informed him of it (!) Such is the nature of the Internet.