Charles Jones, 56, of Westport, the New Zealand president of the World Croquet Federation, was on his way home from a world croquet tournament in London.
Friends found his body in his hotel apartment in Jomtien, Pattaya, a popular holiday resort 165km south of Bangkok, after he failed to turn up for breakfast.
Long-time friend Paul Archer said the death was “an absolute tragedy”.
“I’m reeling from the shock of it. It’s been a brutal brutal death
“He’s world president of croquet, he’s a JP, he’s a QSM. He’s hugely involved in the Westport community as he was in the Wellington communityHe was selfless with his time.”
Mr Jones, a late convert to Catholicism, played the organ in Westport’s St Canice’s Church and was a volunteer helper at the O’Conor Memorial Rest Home. He returned to Westport about five years ago to look after his ailing mother, Jean, who died last year.
“When his mother was dying, for 22 days he laid by her side. He wouldn’t leave her,” Mr Archer said.
Mr Jones was an “incredible organiser” in his career with the defence forces, he said.
Buller Mayor Pat McManus, who heads the O’Conor Home Trust, said Mr Jones’ death was “a real shock reverberating all around the Home”.
“He was the type of guy everybody loved.”
Mr Jones’ contribution to the community, and his achievements in world croquet, were huge, Mr McManus said.
O’Conor Home spokeswoman Reece Durrant said Mr Jones was a “wonderful” man.
“He had a huge influence in all of our lives up here.”
West Coast-based Green MP Kevin Hague said he had known Mr Jones for a long time and liked him a lot.
“I particularly remember that he was really organised and smart and he had a terrific sense of humour.”
Mr Jones had also had a strong sense of values and duty, Mr Hague said.
West Coast/Tasman MP Damien O’Connor said Mr Jones was an invaluable contributor to the community in so many ways.
Mr Jones was born and bred in Westport. He did a chef’s apprenticeship, then changed career track in 1975 when he began working for the Army in a civilian capacity at Linton Camp.
He was director of co-ordination, land command, when he left the defence force 26 years later having worked all over New Zealand, and in London.
He worked for Veterans Affairs for 18 months as overseas commemorations coordinator, then retired.
He was elected unopposed as New Zealand president of the World Croquet Federation last year – only the second New Zealander to hold the role in 25 years – for a four year term.
He had followed his mother into the sport as a schoolboy and been involved in croquet administration for over 40 years. He had been president of the New Zealand Croquet Council for four years, represented New Zealand and managed national teams. He was also a qualified referee.
Mr Jones received a Queen’s Service Medal for his contribution to the sport.
His sister Alison McMillan told the Herald thieves had taken Mr Jones’ computer and cellphone around the time of his death. He had refused to give them the combination to a safe in the apartment, she said.
“It’s tragic. It’s unbelievable, but it’s happened and it’s true. We just have to wait and see now what the police say.”