‘The Crow’ fondly remembered
Mana College hosted a service to remember popular teacher Bruce Crowley last month. Known as ‘ The Crow’, Bruce was involved in organising his own farewell, with his trademark lists and attention to detail. The keen gardener, self-taught pianist, cook, traveller, writer and poet was spoken of as a family man who loved life and contributed greatly to his community.
Above all, Bruce wanted his farewell to be a happy occasion and this is exactly what happened with many stories being shared that had the college hall rocking with laughter, no doubt like some of the assemblies that Bruce took.
Mana College principal Mike Webster recalled the respect that was shown at the college’s golden jubilee in 2007, where Bruce received a standing ovation:
‘‘ One of the most moving experiences of my life happened in this same hall some four years ago. It was at the school reunion when I saw Bruce walk to the lectern to speak. I watched the eyes of every member of the audience smile as they watched him. His speech of gentle banter and humour was just as they remembered him. The smiles on their faces was a joy to behold as it seemed each one felt Bruce was talking to them alone. It was as if the whole hall had wrapped their arms around him and each felt his around them. The aroha was tangible.’’
Born in Tauranga on July 9, 1925, Bruce had many wonderful memories of his primary school days in Tauranga and secondary school education in New Plymouth and Palmerston North, before going on to Christchurch Training College and University in the early 1940s.
His great love was teaching and his first posting was at Raetihi Primary School followed by a relieving position as sole charge teacher at Makakahi Valley School on the banks of the Manganui-o-te-ao River. Bruce described the 12 students as ‘‘lovely mischievous kids who had me on a wild horse in no time after solemnly telling me it was a placid old horse’’. By 1946, Bruce, aged 22, had been appointed acting headmaster of Mohaka Maori School.
One day after school, a group of scrub cutters asked Bruce to check their applications to join J Force and on impulse he filled in one too. Three weeks later, he was in the army.
Based in Japan in 1947 and 1948, he made a name for himself by taking English classes for junior and senior students and getting his pupils to put on concerts in addition to his army duties.
Winning a photo competition and a Commonwealth talent quest helped his cash flow and Bruce also passed a history paper towards his degree while stationed in Japan.
Bruce’s love of travel saw him plan his first OE in 1949. As he was now an accredited freelance journalist, he used the extra cash to pay for his insurance policy. In planning for his funeral service, Bruce said that ‘‘this insurance policy happens to be paying for today’s funeral and your drinks at the after-match function’’.
From 1950 to 1952, Bruce covered most of the world’s shipping lanes as a steward in the British Merchant Navy. After returning to New Zealand in 1953, he taught at Tokomaru Bay before moving to Wellington in 1956.
Bruce began teaching at Mana College in 1961. He was appointed deputy principal in 1968 and, after a brief spell at Tawa College, returned to Mana College and remained there until his retirement in 1985. He continued to relieve at the college.
One speaker at Bruce’s farewell service warmly shared that this instinctive and intuitive man had a special soft spot for the students who needed a little something extra, those on their own or on the outer. Bruce’s Silly Secret Spy Service (SSSS) gave him an added source of student support and investigative skills.
With a love of honky tonk and jazz, playing the piano was an important part of Bruce’s life and he formed a jazz band with a few lads from the sixth form called Father Crow and the Scarecrows. No matter what the occasion, if there was a piano in the room, Bruce would soon be hammering out the old songs with a pint of beer bouncing precariously on top.
His influence continues through the students whose lives he touched, through his many friends throughout the world, his loving wife Valma, sister Paddy, sons Dean and Mark, and their families.
Popular man: Bruce Crowley, who passed away last month, will be remembered with fondness by many in the Mana College and Porirua community.