Forgivingly in his fifties

Chris Wilton-Jones says goodbye to the beard. Photo: Chris Callinan.

He was dubbed ‘Doc’ after Emmett Lathrop ‘Doc’ Brown PhD – the nutcase from ‘Back to the Future’ who fancifully built the first time machine out of a DeLorean sports car.

People know Chris Wilton-Jones as ‘Doc’ but few know why. So let’s put it out there. A friend who could be forgiven for thinking Chris’ mad-ish blond locks resembled those of Doc Brown called him ‘Doc’ – and ‘Doc’ stuck.

Chris ‘Doc’ Wilton-Jones.

And ‘forgiven’ is perhaps the operative word here because while the celluloid ‘Doc’ was a student of all sciences, our Doc is a student of life. And…yes…forgiveness.

“I am turning 50 and I probably feel kind of good about that because I had a lot of loss in my 40s.” He lost things he had worked hard for and a lot of things he loved. And consequently, he’s happy to leave his 40s behind.

He lost his mum in a road crash. His son lost an eye in an industrial accident. He lost three houses – he basically went bankrupt. “At one stage I was cleaning restaurant windows and in return they fed me. I was pretty desperate.” Then his marriage disintegrated – he lost his wife.

“I don’t know if I had clinical depression but there were days I would wake up and pull the sheets back over my head.”

He realised drugs and alcohol weren’t going to fix it. “They’re just cover-ups.” But exercise and forgiveness proved the panacea – as well as committing his 40s to oblivion.

“We forgave the young man involved in the accident which killed mum. We forgave my son’s boss.” And through forgiveness he is really, really good friends with his former wife.

“Vicki, my ex-sweetheart.” Now, who refers to her as an ex with such sentiment, such tenderness? “And when Vicki remarried I was invited and I made a speech.” Now that’s forgiveness. And that’s also the message he carries from his 40s into his sixth decade.

“I would tell you to make amends. Talk to those people who are grinding away in the background because we all have those people.”

And forgiving is hard. “You have to breathe in as you bring it up and spit it out.”

This is not a story of woe betide. It’s simply a story about a Mount Maunganui icon – a man who’s as much a part of the Mount as the sand on main beach, the trig on the summit or even, perhaps, Tangaroa himself.

“My brother Shane’s always in awe of how many people I know or know me. And that’s not ego.” Ego, he suggests, is an acronym for ‘edging God out’. And that ain’t him.

People know him, know of him, he’s in their coffee shops, out on their streets and on his paddle board. But he prefers to be known as a giver.

“I remember being out of petrol and out of money one night.” This is an anonymous Chris Wilton-Jones story told by a local. It says something about the man. “I didn’t know what to do so I called Chris. I popped the petrol tab and thought he was going to put in $10.

“When he saw me reach out to stop the pump he growled: ‘Leave it’. It ticked over to $120.” Chris told this person to pay it forward.

Wednesday was Chris’s birthday. He turned 50.

He took coffee at Luca’s – same time, same shop – as always. Then he was at the gym doing 100 crunches. It might just inspire others to live well and keep well.

Then the hair was cut and the beard of four months committed to the barbershop floor. Kind of sad, kind of empowering, kind of reclaiming yourself. “I have been a person before.” He’s smart chic when he talks to The Weekend Sun – a wonderfully overstated watch and shoes you can’t buy in Devonport Rd or the Mount’s main street. And that scarf. Casual and co-ordinated. A nearly broken man who makes an effort.

And beard, the ex-beard, was moved to verse. “I am sorry I have caused you much frustration, anxiousness, over-heating and plain getting up your nose.

“Goodbye everyone for the first and hopefully the last time

“Thank you Chris for putting up with me and all the itchiness I caused you

“Have a happy birthday without me.”

Then the preened, primped and beardless 50-year-old in a pin-stripe picked up five specially ordered carrot cakes and took them to five special people who’d made a difference during his eminently forgettable forties.

“Like the lovely couple at the laundromat. They’ve been good to me.”

Then there’s the bash at Astrolab tonight for friends and family. That cleaning business he has with the sawmills is not only providing a few casual job contracts, it’s brought Chris back from the brink and will buy a few celebratory drinks for those who care and are close.

But before you raise a glass, Chris ‘Doc’ Wilton Jones wants you to remember forgiveness and reconciliation. “It brings peace and allows us all to move on.”