Pi­o­neer­ing fam­ily’s fi­nal farewell

Les Hen­der­son passes away


The last mem­ber of a pi­o­neer­ing Man­iototo fam­ily was laid to rest just a few hun­dred me­tres from the prop­erty he had called home for many years. There were no off­spring from any of the six chil­dren born into this branch of the Hen­der­son fam­ily who had ar­rived to break in some very raw coun­try more than 100 years ago. ‘‘Young’’ Les Hen­der­son was a man not given to pub­lic ac­co­lade, he pre­ferred to work be­hind the scenes and help peo­ple in the Man­iototo in which­ever way he could. It was some­thing he had done all his life in the area he had been part of all his life. One of his last tasks was on April 21 to un­veil the plaques at the for­mer Black­stone School which closed in 1949, the plaques mark­ing the con­tri­bu­tion he and Chubby Clark had played a part in keep­ing the his­toric school for the com­mu­nity, the school where Les and his broth­ers and sis­ters had at­tended all those years ago. Les, sis­ter Mar­garet and brother Nor­man had formed a tight knit unit in break­ing in their prop­erty, adapt­ing any ma­chin­ery at hand to carry out the work. Neigh­bour Brian McSkim­ming was most grate­ful for his help, say­ing Les had com­pleted al­most three quar­ters of the com­mon fence line, telling him to ‘‘fin­ish the rest when you can’’. ‘‘That meant a lot to us just start­ing out.’’ Ran­furly busi­ness­peo­ple could set their watches on a Fri­day morn­ing by the Hen­der­sons com­ing to town to do their mes­sages. A cup of tea at the Cen­ten­nial Milk­bar was al­ways part of it and let noth­ing dis­turb it, in­clud­ing a fire in the chip vat which the fire­men put out while the three­some fin­ished their re­fresh­ments. ‘‘The last call was al­ways the chemist and any­one knew they could ar­range to have parcels left there for Les to drop off on the way home and they would al­ways be there be­fore mid­day’’ said friend Ken Gille­spie. His love of all things as­tro­log­i­cal and weather watch­ing was well known, with many a pre­dic­tion be­ing more ac­cu­rate than the of­fi­cial ones. With just an­nual trips to the Tekapo sale to buy re­place­ment stock, and to Dunedin when the wool clip was sold, Mr Hen­der­son had never trav­elled north of the Waitaki be­fore he turned 60, but had en­joyed a new lease of life when he mar­ried Gaynor in 2006, leav­ing the Man­iototo to set­tle in Mos­giel. Cel­e­brant Helen Wal­lis summed up Mr Hen­der­son with the words, farmer, faith, frank­ness, for­ti­tude and fam­ily; each strik­ing a chord in those who came to say farewell.

Pi­o­neer: Les Hen­der­son, farmer, faith, frank­ness, for­ti­tude and fam­ily.

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