Old soldier a hard worker
Long-time Waitakere resident Arthur "Artie" Campbell Jonkers has died at home aged 91.
The World War II veteran spent his final days surrounded by family members after a long battle with cancer.
Artie was a well known figure on the family farm in Waitakere township where he worked tirelessly farming sheep and baling his own hay.
At 89 he still cut and baled on his 56 acres - home for 48 years.
Artie kept driving a tractor and operating a digger until just after his 91st birthday on October 22.
"About three weeks before he passed away he was out there trying to spray the rushes, worrying mum sick," daughter Lyn Martinac says.
"He'd keep working until he was exhausted - he was very strong-willed."
During his fight with cancer Artie never complained, Lyn says.
"He just got on with it." Artie loved gardening and grew legendary-sized kumara.
He was a keen fisherman and an excellent shot.
In earlier days the Jonkers and Gregory families enjoyed camping at Muriwai Heads during Easter.
Artie was a transport sergeant and a member of the 24th Infantry Battalion during World War II .
The battalion formed in 1940 and included about 3500 New Zealand men who served in North Africa, Greece and Italy. More than 520 were killed in action.
In 1944, aged 21, he was called for service, starting his campaign in Egypt and then Italy.
Artie served on the front line for six months.
He survived many close calls and later told relatives he learned to pray "in shorthand".
"Dad always said he was lucky to be alive," Mrs Martinac says.
"He missed being blown up all the time - his mates were blown up right beside him."
When the Germans surrendered Artie was sent to Japan where he witnessed the devastation of the bomb in Hiroshima.
Artie was proud to be a returned serviceman and a lifetime member of the Waitakere RSA.
In 1946 Artie returned home where he was reunited with the neighbour's daughter Joy - a former schoolmate at Hoheria School in Waitakere.
"I have known him pretty much all my life," Joy says.
His childhood friend had blossomed into a beautiful young lady and the pair started courting.
They later married and moved into a small cottage on the family farm where they began a carrying business in Taupaki.
The contented couple raised two children - Lyn and her younger brother Ian.
Artie ran a mechanical repair shop with his wife and soulmate of 65 years.
Joy also helped to work the land.
"Wherever Artie went she was his shadow," son-in-law George Martinac says.
"That's what happy teamwork they were - really beautiful."
Lyn says her parents always tried to please each other and were never heard exchanging cross words.
"Right up to the end dad was still calling her ‘dear' so they were a real inspiration.
"Mum came first - that's the way he liked it."
Artie was a capable builder who used Kiwi ingenuity to mend broken things.
He lived by the motto, "The difficult is easily accomplished; the impossible takes a little longer."
Artie served on the Taupaki school committee. He was the president and a life member of the Acclimatisation Society to which he belonged for 21 years.
He was an honorary wildlife ranger and fisheries inspector.
The keen mechanic made sure there was a pit in his garage so he could service his own vehicles.
During Artie's last days he could not speak but raised his eyebrows to show relatives he could still hear.
"Mum laid her face on his cheek and kissed him," Lyn says. "He turned around and kissed her. That was the day he died."
More than 300 people paid tribute in Henderson this month, spilling outside the chapel.
"It made me realise the mana of the man," Mr Martinac says.
Artie is survived by his wife, two children, five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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