John Murray (third from right) celebrates Christmas with his family. Photo / Supplied
The brother of a New Zealander who died of Covid-19 in Thailand described his older brother 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 from an unknown source.
The internationally renowned engineer, born in Ranfurly, central Otago, had lived in Bangkok for around 25 years.
He was the father of six children, four born in Thailand and two in New Zealand. He also had four grandchildren based in New Zealand and Australia.
Neil Murray, John’s four-year-old younger brother, told the NZ Herald how difficult John’s death had been from afar.
âIt’s devastating because no one can visit him, and we still depend on videos and online communication.
“From afar you are helpless, you are just helpless.”
As John was the oldest member of the family, Neil described his brother as a âleaderâ and âthe heart and soul of the familyâ.
âAs an engineer, he was a problem solver rather than a problem maker.
“That’s just how he was and that’s what made him so good at his job, he was always straightforward and outspoken and just a simple man.”
Neil last spoke to his brother the day he went to the 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 called me back three hours later to say, “I’m positive and they’re coming to take me to the hospital.”
“I said, ‘John, what’s going on, just do what the doctor says, take care of yourself’, all kinds of usual things.”
Neil said his brother had no idea where he caught the virus as he had been very diligent in wearing a mask in public, among other measures.
Two of her children also caught the virus. Unfortunately, without citizenship, John was sent to a different hospital from his family.
A few days after his admission, John was hooked up to a breathing tube before being placed in a induced coma.
While his wife and children were recovering, John died in hospital.
âAll I can say is we’re doing,â said Neil, when asked how the family is holding up.
Neil recalled his brother’s engineering career, which began in Auckland with the now defunct consultancy Murray North.
He then became a project engineer for the construction of Dubai International Airport and Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, the latter proving complicated because its runway was built on a swamp.
John also helped build Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi and was a supervising engineer during the erection of the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar which will be used for next year’s FIFA World Cup.
Even though he has lived abroad for over two decades, John’s Kiwi roots shine through – his passion for the All Blacks never falters.
“No matter where he was in the world, he would always find a bar somewhere where the rugby was happening and we would chat about it right away.”
While the pain of John’s passing was still very fresh, Neil said it reminded him of how precious time spent with his family is.
“Savor every moment, make every post a winning post.”