Rodger John Pears was raised in Blenheim and attended Marlborough Boys College. An excellent swimmer, he was a Marlborough Junior Swimming Champion for his club. After playing bass guiter in a band (The Sapphires) he joined the New Zealand Army in 1968 and served with V4 Company in Vietnam. On returning to New Zealand he travelled to London and Germany before marrying his wife, Marie, in Sydney in 1973. They had a daughter, Suzanne, in 1982.