Freemason Francis Davis clocks 75 years
Seventy-five years is a long time to be a member of a secret group.
Thankfully, the Freemasons are not so secretive as they once were.
Francis Davis, 96, is the longest serving active member of Freemasons New Zealand with 75 years under his belt at the Hauraki Plains Lodge.
The former Mangere man was officially recognised for his service on September 30.
"[The Freemasons have] got a little bit more open now," he says. "It's not the secret society it once was."
Freemasonry began about 300 years ago in Europe when stonemasons formed a group to share their skills with worthy apprentices.
The first New Zealand meeting was held in 1837. The philanthropic organisation has evolved but still keeps the same principles of kindness, care and honesty.
Affectionately known as Chum, Francis was born in Wellington and grew up in the small town of Kaihere in the Hauraki Plains.
"It was pretty rough in those days. There were no roads."
His father was a Freemason and ran the Kaihere store.
Francis was sent to board at Mt Albert Grammar School and then to King's College, where he played in the front row of the First XV and was a prefect.
He then returned to Kaihere to help run the store and met his future wife Edna.
Not long after World War II broke out Francis joined the Freemasons and enlisted in the army.
He fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy.
"It was pretty scary," he says. "It was a bit of a mess, water everywhere ... houses blown up and they couldn't get the tanks in."
Francis made it home to marry Edna. They had two children and life was good until Edna developed multiple sclerosis and became paralysed after an accident.
The family moved to Mangere after selling the store in 1973. He lived there for 40 years before moving into Ranfurly Village in Three Kings.
Francis ran a successful tomato hot-house operation and would travel to Hauraki Plains Lodge regularly.