Devoted couple move to Palmy

EMILY BEAUMONT
Last updated 10:45 04/03/2014

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Central District Times

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Austin and Eileen White will leave Taihape next week to take up residence in Palmerston North.

Although sad to be leaving Taihape, the couple is looking forward to Palmerston's warmer winter.

Austin, born in Whanganui in 1923, the second of twins, later joined the airforce but avoided being sent to war because by the time he'd finished his training it was "winding up".

His father bought a farm in Mataroa and Austin joined him on the land. "We got on pretty well," Austin said.

With the farm a small block, Austin sought work on other farms in the district as a general hand.

Living rurally made it hard for him to pursue his love of rugby.

"I didn't play very much, I lived 18 miles from town with no car," he said.

"I was never good enough anyway and I wasn't big enough."

He met Eileen at a dance in Taihape's town hall, the couple soon married and moved onto Eileen's family farm in Taoroa.

The couple had four children, three sons and a daughter.

When they retired to town in 1978, leaving their youngest son on the farm, Austin was finally able to pursue his rugby passion.

With two of his sons playing rugby for Utiku Old Boys Rugby Club, Austin became very involved. "I took a big part in rugby, especially Utiku Old Boys," said Austin.

He joined the club's committee and was club secretary for at least nine years.

During this time he raised the issue of the post-match drinking culture.

"I've always liked my beer but I was pretty strict on young guys drinking, I didn't like the amount of dollars they put over the bar when they couldn't afford it," Austin said.

His commitment and devotion to the Utiku Old Boys Club led to Austin being made a patron of the club in 1998.

Along with his devotion to the rugby club, Austin and Ellen also served faithfully at the Catholic Church. The couple were in charge of collections for years.

"We did all the counting and the banking, it was quite a big job," Austin said.

Along with the banking, Austin took on the role of lawnmower and for nine years mowed the church, hall and convent lawns.

"I've always been a very fastidious bloke, if I took anything on, I'd like to get it done," he said.

Appreciation was shown for Austin's contribution to the Taihape community at a farewell mass a couple of weekends ago.

"I wasn't expecting that," said Austin, 'they said quite a lot of nice words about me."

For Eileen, who was born in Taihape and has been here all her life, the move will be tinged with sadness. "I think I might miss the hills and the people of Taihape."

A trip back could be on the cards this winter.

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"I'd like to come back and see Utiku Old Boys play the Taihape team," Austin said.

- Central District Times

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