Barry William Oliver Partridge MNZM FRACS FRCSENG
General and Vascular Surgeon
9 August 1934 – 21 June 2020

Barry Partridge was born in 1934 to Annie Louisa Johnson, a secretary, and Cyril Partridge, a builder. With a younger sister, Margaret, he spent the first 4 years of his life on the family farm in Ngaere, Taranaki. The family moved to Te Puke when he was four and he attended Te Puke Primary and High Schools. Barry was keenly interested in music, learning to play the violin and continuing to play through his life.

Never eager for school life, Barry left at the age of 15 years to start a building apprenticeship with his father.  Commencing his Compulsory Military Training when aged 18, he spent three years in the Medical Corps and this stimulated his following a medical career. While finishing his carpentry and joinery apprenticeship, he began studying for university entrance exams through Hemingway’s Correspondence School – majoring in music and history.  Successfully gaining University Entrance in 1955, he attended Auckland University to complete Medical Intermediate and gain entry to Medical School in Dunedin.  

Barry married Maybelle Garratt, a student nurse, in 1960 and they spent their first year together in Dunedin, as Barry completed his 5th year with Maybelle working in support. He graduated with his

MB ChB the next year, being awarded the David Whyte prize in surgery along the way. Barry and Maybelle lived in Hamilton during the next four years where, following two years as a house surgeon, he became a surgical registrar.

In 1965 Barry, Maybelle and their three boys - Durham, Ashton and Leighton (born in 1961, 1962 and 1965 respectively) set sail for the UK so Barry could pursue surgical training. The next year he passed his Primary FRCS in Edinburgh and then 3 weeks later in London he obtained his FRCSEng. From there, the family moved to Leamington Spa where Barry worked the next two years on the Southern Birmingham circuit in Warneford, Warwick General and Stratford-on-Avon Hospitals. During this time, experience was gained in both general and vascular surgery.

In 1968, Barry, Maybelle and their family returned to New Zealand where Barry had secured a position as Tutor-Specialist at Wellington Hospital. Obtaining his FRACS in 1970, he applied for and was appointed to a consultant position at Tauranga Hospital. There he was one of a team of three surgeons providing general surgery services for a large regional population. In addition, he progressively developed a vascular surgery service for the region. He became Clinical Director of Surgery in Tauranga holding this position until his retirement in 2004 and was instrumental in the development of the regional surgical service. He was elected to the RACS New Zealand National Committee and served for 8 years.

By nature humble and considerate, Barry was committed to the provision of public hospital service. Already an encouraging teacher, who loved operating, he became a mentor to numerous young doctors as they commenced surgical training. He had excellent technical skills and, one of the generation of General Surgeons who before the now established sub-specialties became the norm, seemed to have expertise in a wide range of fields being equally adept at doing a craniotomy or cracking open a chest and doing an emergency lobectomy, performing a hysterectomy, nephrectomy, or whatever was necessary. He was an avid reader of surgical journals and when travelling in his car, would listen to surgical audio tapes and then discuss them with colleagues. 

In 1979 the family split, Ashton remaining with his father in Tauranga, and Maybelle, Durham and Leighton moving back to Wellington.  Barry devoted his energies to patient care, and in 1981 married Marlene Kilmister, the charge nurse of the A&E Department. Both Barry and Marlene shared a commitment to health care and an interest in music and travel. Marlene died in 2012 leaving an emptiness in his life that was never filled. 

A wonderful clinician, Barry lived for surgery, and was highly respected in the community. On retirement he received the MNZM in recognition of his contribution to services to medicine. He compiled a book titled “The History of Vascular Surgery at Tauranga” and presented this to the Vascular Society of New Zealand in 2009.  In 2013 he joined Rotary in Tauranga and until the time of his death, was a very active participant both as a committee member and through contributing many hours to the annual book sale. He was also a member of a U3A music group and just before his death had led the group in a practical talk on modern classical musicians. But, as his brother-in-law pointed out, medicine was so much his life that even in old age it tended to colour all his conversations.

Barry Partridge is survived by his three sons, Durham, Ashton and Leighton, step-children Tracy, Todd and Brendon, sister Margaret, and nine grandchildren, four step-grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.


This obituary is based on one published in the Bay of Plenty Times, 24 June, with subsequent assistance from Rob Cable FRACS, Margaret Walls and Ashton Partridge.