‘Original' who made difference

Last updated 12:34 05/10/2012

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Aline Joan Pengelly
Former Palmerston North city councillor, regional councillor, teacher
Born in Dargaville, May 7, 1925
Died September 26, 2012.

The city's fifth woman city councillor was a strict defender of the English language, a writer, a musician and a churchwoman turned atheist.

She was born in Dargaville, one of three daughters of John (Jack) and Thelma Pengelly.

Her father was the wharf manager, later moving the family to Auckland, where he worked for the Union Steam Ship Company.

Having spent most of her life in Auckland, teaching in the state school system, and in Christian education, her first links with Palmerston North were through Massey University, where she completed a Bachelor of Arts in 1975.

She was a member of the Women's Electoral Lobby, but her interest in local politics was interrupted by a brief teaching stint in Reefton.

She returned to Palmerston North in 1977 as a teacher at Awatapu College, and was elected to the city council in 1980.

As a relative newcomer, she attributed her success, in part, to the name recognition she achieved as a frequent writer of letters to the editor of what was then the Evening Standard.

She made an unsuccessful bid for the mayoralty in 1985 when Sir Brian Elwood resigned to chair the Local Government Commission, and was soundly beaten by Paul Rieger.

Her summary was "this place was not ready for a woman".

During her time on the council she served on a variety of committees, chaired the civil defence committee and represented the council on the Globe Theatre Trust Board.

She continued to serve on the council until 1991, when she resigned before the end of the term, disheartened by the attitude of a group of new councillors dubbed "the gang of four" who wanted to re-litigate every decision made by the previous council.

Wanting to put the frustrations behind her but keen to continue in local government, she turned her energy toward Horizons' forerunner, the Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council. She was first elected in 1992, completing three terms until 2001, when she retired.

Aline was a devout Christian early in her adult life, rising to the status of deaconess in the Presbyterian Church.

In Palmerston North she joined All Saints Anglican Church, became a lay reader, and was invited to join the vestry.

Restless, she returned to her Presbyterian ways at St David's, but during the 1990s stopped attending any church.

A keen writer, she poured out her change of heart about religion in a book, Faith is a Journey.

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A music lover who abandoned the Choral Society, declaring herself not very good, she could play the piano by ear, and made regular visits to rest homes to entertain.

Friend Nan Kinross described her as a kind woman who appreciated other people, but who was always unpredictable.

"She was an original."

In accordance with her wishes, Aline was cremated without any blessing or gathering shortly after her death at her Palmerston North home.

Friends, however, have decided to have an afternoon tea to celebrate her life.

It's to be on Sunday at 2.30pm at the Manawatu County Club, on the corner of Fitzroy and Main streets.

Her final comments in an interview in 2000 were:

"If you have lived the kind of life that has affected people for the better . . . then you've left something behind for them of yourself."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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