McCleary bows out of race at 87

Tommy McCleary wins the 1963 New Zealand Grand Prix.

Tributes have flown in for motorcycle legend Tommy McCleary.

Mr McCleary, 87, died on April 26 after losing a battle with cancer.

His impacts were particularly felt in Wigram, through his 41-year membership with the Wigram Lions Club.

Mr McCleary’s wife of 35 years, Judith, described him as a “generous” and “kind-hearted” man.

Tommy McCleary.

He made a lasting impression on many people across Christchurch, she said.

Mr McCleary began riding motorcycles as a 15-year-old and made his competitive racing debut in 1947 at Halkett, west of Christchurch. He enjoyed a glittering career, winning 18 New Zealand championship titles.

Mr McCleary also won the junior race in the first New Zealand Grand Prix to be broadcast live on radio, and finished runner up in the senior race.

He took off his helmet for the last time in 1966.

Post-racing, Mr McCleary served as the president of Wigram Lions Club, as well as club and as district governor.

Wigram Lions Club member of 45 years, Jack Tait, said Mr McCleary made a number of contributions to the community and could not single out a standout over the years.

“He was blessed with a very good memory, he could recall stories from the past and name people and he always had a good joke to tell,” Mr Tait said.