Albie looks to second century
Albie D’Ath doesn’t seem too pleased that his wife has banned him from using a ladder. But perhaps it’s not a bad idea, considering the Pukerua Bay resident will celebrate his 100th birthday on April 18.
‘‘The womenfolk, my wife and the woman next door, both gang up on me when they see me with a ladder,’’ he said. ‘‘ They say ‘you’re not getting on that ladder’, and yet I have not had any trouble on a ladder in my life.’’
Albie has certainly had a long and full life.
He was born Albert Ernest Death on April 18, 1915, in Newtown. He had a brother and two sisters, and his mother grew weary of her children having Death (pronounced dee-ath) as a surname.
‘‘People, they’d say, ‘ oh, your name’s Death?’’’. His mother changed their name to D’Ath while they were children.
He fondly remembers growing up watching New Zealand sports hero George Nepia play rugby, though he had to be sneaky to see him.
‘‘I saw Nepia play at Athletic Park. I saw all those big games. I climbed the fence. I couldn’t afford it. I think it was three shillings to go in.’’
When the Depression arrived in the 1930s, Albie’s father was forced to move the family to a bach in what is now Brendan Beach in Pukerua Bay. ‘‘ The Depression was terrible. Money was very low in those days.’’
Unable to pay the bills, the family stayed at the bach and had a cow for milk and chickens for eggs to help them through the crisis.
After the devastating 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake, Albie was recruited by his Scottish neighbour as a bricklayer’s labourer and began the gruelling task of hauling around bricks and mortar while rebuilding chimneys in Napier.
‘‘I only had myself, so I said let’s get going’.
‘‘I still can’t believe now how I did the job that I did.’’
Just before World War II, Albie married his first wife, Hettie. Their daughter, Janice, was born in 1947.
When Janice was 10, Hettie died.
Albie remarried 19 years later, and he and Kathleen will cele- brate 39 years of marriage the day before his big birthday.
When World War II arrived, Albie was working as a boilermaker at Luke Brothers in Wellington.
He was eager to enlist in the air force, but his work meant he was deemed too valuable to be sent overseas. Instead, he helped the war effort through his work on the ships’ boilers at the Wellington docks.
‘‘I was fit for the war and everything, but they wouldn’t let me go, because I did a lot of ship work.
‘‘I was there 17 years. We did a lot of big jobs. Nothing in the paper because that was all hushhush,’’ he said, of his work during the war.
By the time peace was declared, Albie had started his own business, sticking to his boilermaking roots.
‘‘A bus engineer, more or less. A bus boilermaker. My father was one, my brother was one and they were two of the best boilermakers.’’
When Albie finally retired he was able to spend more time in the Pukerua Bay area. He has lived in his Ocean Pde home since 1956.
Albie remains impressively spritely and still does the gardening and paints the house.
Kathleen attributes his longevity to his inner strength.
‘‘He is very, very resilient, this bloke. His inner strength is tremendous,’’ she said.
Albie D’Ath contemplates reaching his century. He still tends the garden regularly.