Family mourns ‘hero’

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    Joel Palmeira with wife Melyssa and daughters Bianca and Jaqueline during Bianca's 15th birthday party in Brazil. Photo: Supplied

    THE past few days have been a blur for Melyssa Palmeira.

    Last week, the Invercargill woman lost the “first and only” love of her life.

    Brazilian-born Joel Palmeira (45) died in a recreational rafting incident on the Waiau River, near Te Anau, last Friday.

    The family has lived in New Zealand since 2015 and Mr Palmeira was an active member of the Invercargill Brazilian community of about 200 people.

    “He was determined, super friendly, a great husband and father,” Mrs Palmeira said.

    “He definitely was the best man I ever met. He was always trying to encourage people to be the best they could be.”

    Mrs Palmeira said her husband was born in Santo Andre, Sao Paulo, and had a “humble background”.

    “He came from a poor family and he believed the way to succeed in life was studying and working hard. He was always doing courses and qualifications.”

    The couple met when they were neighbours in Sao Paulo 14 and he was 18. The friendship turned to a relationship three years later when he “stole a kiss” from her when they were returning from work in the subway.

    Married for 22 years, they had two daughters, Bianca and Jaqueline. In Brazil, he completed an electrical engineering degree and worked for 20 years for a big power company.

    It was because of “his girls” he decided to move to New Zealand.

    First, Mr Palmeira travelled alone to Queenstown to study English for four months. He fell in love with the place and talked to his family about moving to New Zealand.

    “He was very proud of the pathway he built here. When he moved, he worked as a kitchen hand in Queenstown but he was so determined that he did not stop to look for jobs in his area.”

    He got a job offer to be an electrical line worker at Altitude Resurfacing, in Invercargill and, in 2016, the family moved to Southland.

    Her daughter Bianca said her father was a kind of a “super hero”.

    “For Brazilian girls, 15 years is an important age because we have a big ball with friends and family. I remember, when he was still studying English here, he travelled to Brazil to spend only five days there.

    “He could not miss my birthday. He was the best father I could ever wish for.”

    An online fundraising page was set up on Saturday to help Mr Palmeira’s family transport his body to Brazil.

    As of yesterday, about $13,700 had been raised. The family expected to leave at the end of the week.

    Mrs Palmeira said they would return to New Zealand, so her daughters could continue their studies.

    security and the best life possible to our daughters.

    “I will keep his legacy and will follow his wishes, to honour the man he was.”

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