German builder recalls good times
A touching love story came to light when one of Titahi Bay’s Austrian House builders visited his old stomping ground last month.
German man Helmut Modlik, 82, left his fiancee back home in 1953 to join hundreds of other Europeans building pre-cut Austrian state houses in the Bay.
Mr Modlik soon found himself fully involved in the social life at Takapuwahia pa, attending boogie woogie dances in the old meeting hall. He fell in love with a Ngati Toa woman, Haneta (Becky) Arthur.
Breaking his engagement, Mr Modlik married Becky and the pair had five children, including Porirua deputy mayor Liz Kelly.
Life was full of fun and adventure in the Bay, Mr Modlik said.
Finding New Zealand’s six o’clock pub closing tough, many Austrian builders bought motorbikes and raced up and down the Kapiti coast, evading traffic police along the way.
‘‘It was a strange country for us. We like a beer,’’ he said.
Mr Modlik’s involvement with Ngati Toa Mormons led him on a mission to build a church in Hamilton.
Once children came along, he converted a combi van into a caravan to take the family skiing.
‘‘I had a lot of fun with the kids,’’ he said.
Years later the Modliks split and Mr Modlik moved to Northland. Then in 2001 he got an email from the grand-daughter of his former fiancee, Johanna Mathauser, wondering what became of him. That spurred a reconnection between the old flames and he and Johanna have been a couple ever since.
‘‘His life has sort of gone a full circle with his first love,’’ daughter Ms Kelly said.
Mr Modlik now spends half the year at Johanna’s home in Austria, and she usually joins him the rest of the year in Northland.
He hardly ever makes it back to Porirua these days, and missed an Austrian builder reunion organised by kaumatua Mahu Wineera in April, so enjoyed a chance to visit the marae last month and reminisce about the good old days in the Bay.
Lasting legacy: German tradesman Helmut Modlik, right, one of his five children, deputy mayor Liz Kelly, and kaumatua Mahu Wineera at Takapuwahia marae last month.