Al­bie looks to sec­ond cen­tury

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By BRIAR BABINGTON

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.

Photo: BRIAR BABINGTON

Al­bie D’Ath con­tem­plates reach­ing his cen­tury. He still tends the gar­den reg­u­larly.

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