A lonely death at sea
sea journey can be found in the way she lived her life.
Pamilar Rosina King was born on January 23, 1943 in Rotorua. She was the middle child of three.
Pam was just like any other kid, childhood friend Dorothy Skelton said. The 78-year-old paused as she thought back to those early years, so long ago.
“She was a bit of a daredevil,” Dorothy added. Also “a bit tomboyish”.
She lived down the street from Pamilar and her family and went to the same school — St Michael’s Catholic.
“We all grew up together, played tennis in the middle of the road and all that, you know, as kids; going up to the school.”
Dorothy was closer to Pamilar’s older sister. They were the same age and she was Dorothy’s chief bridesmaid. That older sister now lives on the Kapiti Coast.
She had to step up at age 16 and look after her two younger siblings and dad when their mother died young, aged 42.
“Chief cook, cleaner and bottle washer,” the now 78-year-old laughed when I phoned her last week at home.
She said she had to grow up fast and quickly learn to cook when her mum died. From that point on, her life was very different to that of her two sisters.
She didn’t want to be named in this story. She said she and Pamilar had been estranged “for quite some time”.
They got on well as kids but grew distant as they got older. Different ages, different friends. Pamilar was “harumscarum” as a youngster.
“She was always more outgoing and maybe more daring than any of us,” the sister said.
“We were sort of more placid. She was sort of always wanting to be on the go.” Which is why Pamilar’s decision to leave home and join a convent when she was about 17 came as such a surprise. The sister still doesn’t know what enticed Pamilar into the convent but said it was a big jump from someone who was “always on fire, always moving”.
“From there on in I didn’t really have a lot to do with her, or see her.”
Pamilar was in Australia initially and then returned to New Zealand to continue working with the Catholic church. She was involved for about nine years altogether. She then took up teaching and moved back to Australia. It was hard to keep in touch with her, the sister said.
“She wasn’t a person that just got a house and settled down. She was always more or less travelling.”
That characteristic came up a lot during conversations with those who knew Pamilar. Her nomadic lifestyle had come to define her.
She was transient, welltravelled. Of no fixed abode when she died. Pamilar was known to “up sticks” and move on. She would sometimes stay with people for only a few days at a time.
“There’s lots of gaps where we haven’t really seen her because she’s either in Turkey or she’s in India or she’s in China,” her older sister said. “She taught in China for about four years.”
She was also in Peru at some stage. She went to Machu Picchu.
Pamilar’s niece, Rosina Bagley, was able to add a few countries to that list. The 54-year-old lives in Auckland. She is the daughter of the youngest of the three sisters, Judith, who died about 10 years ago. Rosina said Pamilar was her “estranged aunt”.
I asked her what she meant by that. “Well just in that I can’t tell you a lot about her recently because I didn’t see her.”
Most of her memories of Pamilar are childhood memories. “I suppose she was always the exciting aunt, if you know what I mean, because she was single and living her lifestyle and she would be the aunt who would turn up and have gifts and then go off and you sort of wouldn’t see her again.”
Rosina remembers Pamilar returning to New Zealand after what she thought was her big OE.
“Because she’d been to many countries, including Russia and Germany; that inspired me I guess, in some way, to travel. She did bring back souvenirs from all her travels and back then that was kind of something.”
Her aunt continued to travel a lot, she said, even when she was older. “I don’t think she could settle.”
There was possibly a trip to England about five years ago. She also remembers Pamilar going to Turkey. As for when Rosina last spoke to and saw Pamilar, that is less clear. There could have been a brief phone call in the past five years, she said. A short visit in the past 10.
Around the time Judith was unwell, before she died, Pamilar returned to New Zealand.
“Pam had gone to live in Australia, where she’d been for as long as I could remember. But yes she did come back and she did look after my mother for some time. I recall her coming to the house; I don’t know how long she stayed. Not that long.”
There are still plenty of gaps when it comes to the years and months leading up to Pamilar’s death.
No one I spoke to knew much about what she did for a living later in life. She was of course retirement age, but she sometimes spoke of having businesses and being self-employed.
A LinkedIn account for Pamilar says she is “self-employed at Kinzar Beauty Studio”.
Her account summary lists skin and body treatments, Thai foot massage and years of experience in wellness industries and hotels. It says she formulates her own cosmetics.
Under the skills and endorsements section, it says “beauty/holistic therapist extraordinaire”.
Pamilar was on the Kapiti Coast doing a refresher teaching course earlier this year, her older sister told me. It was the first time in years they had seen each other. But they didn’t spend much time together. The sister wasn’t quite sure where Pamilar was staying.
I do know that for at least some of the time — on four separate occasions in April, May and June — Pamilar stayed at Paekakariki Holiday Park.
The holiday park’s manager instantly remembered her when I read out the name.
“She was getting the cheaper accommodation,” she said.
The manager said the park couldn’t do long-term accommodation but did offer Pamilar a better rate for a cabin.
“Because we didn’t think she was fantastic financially. I sort of kept thinking to myself, surely she’s got relatives somewhere that would look after her.”
Pitcairn Island, a small volcanic outcrop roughly halfway between New Zealand and Peru, is home to about 50 people.
One of the last photos of Pamilar King, taken at the unveiling ceremony on Pitcairn Island.