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Lake Rotoiti crash victim remembered for his ‘super-friendly’ nature and generosity

Peter Dorfliger was moments from his Lake Rotoiti home when he was instantly killed in a collision between his car and truck last month.

He is remembered as super friendly, a great storyteller, charming adventurer and entrepreneur, and a generous, devoted family man.

The crash happened on State Highway 30 on the lakefront on March 29.

Dorfliger and his wife Joy had been married for 44 years and lived on the lakefront for their entire marriage.

Joy said the day of the crash her husband and their youngest son David, 27, had made plans to go and check out some rocks they wanted to use to make a rock wall at home.

Beforehand her husband popped out to drop off a box of beers to a friend as thanks for helping fix their Wi-Fi and also to feed the cats of another friend, who both lived nearby.

He was heading home about 4pm and had just turned right out of the lane, which he had done countless times before, when the crash happened, Joy said.

“Peter was super friendly and it wasn’t unusual for him to get caught up chatting to people living along the little lane adjoining our place.”

She said when her husband did not return home,son David went looking for him and came across the road cordon. He called her to say there had been a crash.

She received the “devastating” news after going to the crash scene to see if she could help. She said their lives will never be the same.

Born into a joinery business family in Fulenbach in Switzerland, from a young age Peter was helping his late parents Max and Marie in the business after school.

At the same time, he was sharpening the neighbours’ knives. When a new Catholic Pope was appointed he sold commemorative plates door to door for a grand profit – even to the village priest, such was his entrepreneurial spirit.

He left home at 14 to become a chef in Luzern and by age 17 gained his chef qualifications and travelled around Europe and South Africa, Joy said.

At age 20, Peter and his brother Max emigrated to Australia, where he worked as a chef in Sydney and the mines in Western Australia where he also worked as a bulldozer driver.

Getting the latter job was a matter of him saying he could drive one”no worries”, despite his experience probably only being in a sandpit as a toddler, his wife said.

He also spent a year in Tonga where he worked as a head chef at an international hotel, learned the language, and made lifelong friends.

In 1972, while visiting New Zealand with his little motorbike, he met Joy’s parents at Kaikohe Golf Course, and bonded with his future father-in-law over a love of chess.

Joy said she was 21 when she invited Peter to a family celebration and he then invited her to see the log cabin he built at Hongi’s Track and their romance began.

“Although he had only built a bookshelf before, Peter built the log cabin with second-hand power poles and a chainsaw, ” she said.

The couple had three sons, Lee, Jordan and David, and a daughter, Tamar.

In the late 1970s, Dorfliger launched his business NZ Log Chalets and designed and built more than 30 beautifully crafted homes and small chalets all around New Zealand.

Joy said her husband was a “very clever, intelligent and practical man”, who could turn his hand at most things.

He spoke six languages, including Spanish, Italian and Tongan and even made some tewhawha sticks for the Ruato Bay Rotoiti Kapa Haka Group, she said.

“Peter was also a great storyteller and always telling funny stories, and he was famous for his perfectly-timed hilarious puns and observations.

“He was immensely proud of our children and we were immensely proud of him. We are all still devastated to have lost him.

“Peter was a loving husband, a wonderful father and an amazing man. I think Peter had extraordinary character as he didn’t have any prejudices and treated everyone the same.

“He never judged anyone and was a friend to everybody,” she said.

Joy also said her husband’s generosity meant he would often invite travellers to come home for a meal.

“I always used to tell Peter, he who invites, must cook. He was a wonderful chef who used to always cook our meals,” she said.

“Peter was my best friend and his death has left a huge hole in our lives. I keep trying to count up all the members of our family and someone important is always missing. He is sorely missed.”

Peter is also survived by his brothers Max and Emile and his five grandchildren.

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