Long-serving Marist priest George "Chalky" Duggan, once described as "chief among the divine publicists" by a Wellington journalist, has died in Upper Hutt, aged 100.
He died at St Joseph's Home of Compassion yesterday, where an official blessing from Pope Benedict had been conferred upon him on his 100th birthday earlier this year.
He was a lecturer based on the hill overlooking the Mission Vineyard for many years at Mount St Mary's, Greenmeadows, in Hawke's Bay.
He was also a regular contributor to letters to the editor pages of numerous publications throughout New Zealand and abroad.
A West Coaster, Fr Duggan, SM, was ordained in 1936 in Rome on the feast of St Thomas Aquinas, whose work he studied.
His nickname "Chalky" originated from a boxer named Chalky Duggan.
He was born in Runanga near Greymouth and was educated by the Mercy Sisters and Marist Brothers in Greymouth and Reefton.
His secondary education was at St Bede's College, Christchurch, where he was dux in both 1927 and 1928.
He won a University National Scholarship in 1928 - the first St Bede's student to do so.
A spokeswoman for the Catholic Church said his colourful and non-compromising denunciation of what he considered to be aberrant or erroneous theology and doctrine meant that he was often engaged in feisty exchanges of view in letters to the editor columns of numerous publications.
Those who knew him personally however knew a very different man from his public persona.
He was a keen sportsman, a counsellor and a man skilled in the domestic arts of cooking and preserving, the church spokeswoman said.
In recent years, he became increasingly frail, and lived in the care of the Silverstream Home of Compassion, supported by his Marist confreres at the neighbouring Marian Court.
Despite impaired hearing, he enjoyed visitors and conversation and happily recounted stories of his many and wide experiences.
Fr Duggan's funeral mass will be held at St Mary of the Angels Church, Boulcott Street, Wellington at 10am on Thursday, December 20.
Related story: A century of faith for Chalky
- The Dominion Post