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“His courage was an inspiration”

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A flamboyant and courageous Queenstown chef who died this month aged 45 was given just months to live when he first underwent cancer treatment eight years ago.

Tommy Hardes, the Flame's longtime head chef, was diagnosed with a tumor in his lower spine in 2016.

Most of the tumor was removed during an eight-hour operation, but it eventually spread to his brain.

Tommy, who had to learn to walk again, made headlines in the Covid era of 2021.

He had travelled to Western Australia to escape the Queenstown winter, but when he needed to return home to continue chemotherapy, he was refused an emergency visa, despite warnings from his oncologist that his cancer would otherwise return.

His Flame boss Lou McDowell told Mountain Scene: “It is inhumane that sports stars and entertainers are allowed access but not a terminally ill, hard-working citizen who has contributed and paid his taxes for ten years or more.”

Four months later, Tommy was finally allowed to return.

At his funeral last week, his girlfriend and original Flames boss, Dawn Sherbrooke, noted that his oncologist had described him as the most colorful personality she had ever had the privilege of treating.

“She advised him to travel, get out and enjoy his life, which he did.”

Summing up, Sherbrooke said: “Tommy’s bravery, tenacity, perseverance and courage are an inspiration.

“He has the most incredible friends and that is a real testament to him [as to] what influence he had on people's lives.

“He had a short life, but boy did he pack a lot into it.”