The brother of a New Zealander who died from Covid-19 in Thailand has described his older sibling as a “leader” and “the heart and soul of the family”.
John Murray, 74, died in a Bangkok hospital on Sunday after contracting the virus on June 12 through an unknown source.
The internationally renowned engineer, who was born in the Central Otago town of Ranfurly, had lived in Bangkok for about 25 years.
He was a father of six, four born in Thailand and two in New Zealand. He also had four grandchildren based in New Zealand and Australia.
Neil Murray, John’s younger brother by four years, spoke to the NZ Herald about how difficult John’s death had been from afar.
“It’s devastating because no one can go and visit him, and we’re still reliant on videos and online communication.
“From afar, you’re powerless, you’re just powerless.”
As John was the oldest family member, Neil described his brother as a “leader” and “the heart and soul of the family”.
“Being an engineer, he was a problem-solver rather than a problem-maker.
“It’s just the way he was and that’s what made him so good at his job, he was always direct and forthright and just a straight-forward man.”
Neil last spoke to his brother the day he went into hospital. Ringing on a Saturday afternoon, John informed his brother that his wife had caught Covid-19 and that he was feeling weak.
“[John] said, ‘I’m just going to get tested’ and he phoned me back three hours later to say, ‘I’m positive and they’re coming to take me to hospital’.
“I’m saying, ‘John, what’s going on, just do what the doctor says, look after yourself’, all the usual sorts of things.”
Neil said his brother had no idea where he’d caught the virus as he had been very diligent wearing a mask in public, among other measures.
Two of his children also caught the virus. Unfortunately, without citizenship, John was sent to a different hospital to his family.
Within days of being admitted, John was hooked up to a breathing tube before being placed into an induced coma.
While his wife and children recovered, John passed away in hospital.
“All I can say is we’re coping,” Neil said, when asked how the family was holding up.
Neil recalled his brother’s storied engineering career which started in Auckland with the now defunct consultancy firm Murray North.
He then became the project engineer for the construction of the Dubai International Airport and the Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, the latter proving complicated as its runway was built on marshland.
John also assisted in the construction in Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi and was a supervising engineer during the erection of Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar to be used in next year’s Football World Cup.
Even though he had lived abroad for more than two decades, John’s Kiwi roots shone through – his passion for the All Blacks never abating.
“It doesn’t matter where he was in the world, he would always find a bar somewhere where the rugby was on and we’d have conversation straight away about it.”
While the pain of John’s passing still felt very fresh, Neil said it had reminded him how valuable time with family was.
“Relish every moment, make every post a winning post.”
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