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A sad farewell to a good friend

First Foundation has lost a dear friend and New Zealand one of its staunchest and most loyal supporters with the sad passing of Lee Stevens. Lee leaves his wife Penny and a legacy which will reach across generations and far into the future.

Lee and Penny Stevens
Lee inspired everyone who met him with his authenticity, humility and perception.

“Lee and Penny are the epitome of philanthropy, for the indefatigable and selfless service they have rendered to humanity, for their generosity that is born out of passion and compassion in making the world a better place.”

Kirk Sargent, Chief Executive First Foundation.

Last year, Lee and Penny led the establishment of a scholarship awarded to Autumn Ngere. This bright young lady is one of the many Kiwis whose situation makes university hard to reach, despite her dedication and intellect. 

Thanks to Lee and Penny, Autumn will now have financial help with fees, a mentor and work experience. Together, this unique combination of support will help Autumn access and navigate a university and career pathway that she’ll be the first in her family to navigate. 

Read more about their connection with First Foundation here.  

Autumn Ngere

Lee captured his reflections in The Journey of the Rua and Clarrie Stevens Charitable Trust, aptly titled The Power of Love. You can download this here.

“The Rua Stevens Charitable Trust was named for a loving wife and mother who lost her life to leukaemia at the age of 60. In the months following her death, her devoted husband, Clarrie Stevens, resolved to honour her memory with a trust. There was little money to invest in the newly established Rua Stevens Charitable Trust. But Clarrie was undeterred. From the outset, Clarrie had the enthusiastic support of his 22-year-old son, Lee. Together they tackled the challenges and opportunities on the road ahead.” Lee wrote,

“Clarrie and I agreed our guiding philosophy should be more than writing cheques. We wanted to be friends of the organisations we supported, an approach that characterised our Trust from its earliest days.”

“The Rua Stevens Charitable Trust gradually grew stronger and began to stand out from the crowd for its genuine interest in the progress of its grant recipients.

In 2016, Lee received the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to the community and immediately paid tribute to his wife, Penny for her unstinting support and drive. Together, they have ensured that the Trust will continue to lend the warm-hearted helping hand it has extended all these past years.”

Lee wrote, “We learned much from the organisations we have come into contact with over the years. I know I can speak for Penny, too, when I say the experience has brought us a lot of joy. The Trust got me up in the morning. It has been my life’s work.”

“Through hands-on experience, I learned the true meaning of giving. And that few things in life are more worthwhile than having a purpose that is greater than being about oneself.”
The words he shared on his father’s passing seem equally fitting as we farewell Lee.


“Death leaves a heartache No one can heal; Love leaves a memory no one can steal.” Anon

Autumn Ngere