A lonely death at sea

Rotorua Daily Post - - OUR PEOPLE -

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.

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