Leo in club gear receiving The Joggers Perpetual Motion Trophy from John Granville.

You are now entering Waikanae so there will be no swearing or spitting. –Leo Rakich to his fellow Kapiti Joggers on crossing a bridge into Waikanae

By Roger Childs

Leo Rakich passed away recently just 10 days short of his 82nd birthday. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Leo had been a Waikanae identity for close on 50 years and was a visible presence in the area involved in various Lions ventures, and as a runner and walker. As a member of the local Lions Club for over forty years he held every office in the club, including being editor of the magazine. He was always known to be generous with his time on projects the Lions were involved in.

He was very active at working bees and helping people out when needed, and was a familiar face on the Waikanae Garden Trail in years gone by. For his long service and commitment he received one of the Lions Club’s highest awards.

Devoted to running

In his younger years Leo was a keen sportsman involved in surf lifer saving, rugby and swimming. He was always very supportive of his children’s sporting activities over the years. When the family moved from Gisborne to Waikanae in the 1970s he joined the Kapiti Joggers and was a regular attender up until a few years ago. 

He ran various distances, but the marathon was his specialty. Often he would join local Harriers and Joggers in trips to the May Rotorua Marathon – the 42.2 km event which attracted by far the biggest fields in the country. In his time he ran the roads around Lake Rotorua 13 times with a best time in the low 2:40’s. 

He trained assiduously for the races knowing that you had to put the effort in to get the results. Three hours plus training runs were essential so Leo would often head off deep into the Reikorangi Valley come back home then do it again. Another variation was to run from Waikanae to top of the Maungakotukutuku Hill behind Paraparaumu – twice!

A true club man 

Leo was held in high esteem by the Kapiti Joggers & Walkers and was regarded as a legend because of his 40 years + devotion to the club and his impressive performances in races. He was always cheerful with a winning smile, a mischievous streak and plenty of stories to tell. When he was the leader for the Sunday runs he knew how to deal with joggers who went ahead of the leader – he would watch them turn a corner and lead the rest in a different direction!

When the club organised of the Joggers Half Marafun around Paraparaumu and Raumati prior to 2000 he was a key man working with others at the start/finish area. Then in the 2010s he was the first marshal on the Marines event course at Whareroa Farm. In more recent years he was a regular member of the walking group. 

To acknowledge his long service (over 40 years) and commitment to the group, Leo was one of the first Joggers to be made a life member of the Club.

One of the speakers at this funeral last Friday gave this fitting tribute: Rest in peace Leo, you were a great guy — a thoroughly decent, modest, entertaining, supportive and committed person who always gave it your best shot.