‘The Crow’ fondly re­mem­bered

Kapi-Mana News - - OBITUARY -

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.

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