Eltham mourns loss of local hero

Don Drabble
Don Drabble

Don Drabble has been described as the most hard-working and conscientious man Eltham has known.

The 83-year-old was killed in a two-car crash on Thursday night after he pulled out of Cornwall Rd onto State Highway 3 and collided with a northbound vehicle.

It was only on Tuesday when Mr Drabble was awarded a Local Heroes medal for his service to Eltham as part of the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards.

Mr Drabble beamed as he received his award that night.

Deputy Mayor and close friend Alex Ballantyne said the Eltham community was shocked and upset with the loss.

"While it's often said about people that they never have a bad word to say about anybody else, he's the only person I've ever met in my life to whom that was literally true."

Mr Ballantyne said the talented craftsman and musician had no ego whatsoever, and described him as a "human dynamo".

"He was a very rare, serving-others type of person."

Mr Drabble was known as the "father of the town hall" after being responsible for the Eltham building's restoration and prevention of it being sold.

"Shortly after the threat it may be lost, the council agreed because of the public backlash to allow the Friends of the Town Hall to renovate it, so we raised over $350,000 and saved it. He was the man behind that, the man who inspired the rest of us."

Mr Ballantyne said as fate would have it, they were in the process of having a photo portrait of Mr Drabble framed and hung in the hall.

"There's a funny portrait of King George or someone as soon as you walk in the Town Hall above the main doors, and I was going to put Don's one there instead. I'll be pushing for that."

Mr Drabble was also a historian, writing a book about Chew Chong and spending hours researching "Father of Eltham" Charles Wilkinson.

He was an invaluable member of the Eltham and Districts Historical Society, and a life member of the Eltham Savage Club and Eltham Lions.

He leaves behind his wife of 61 years, Margaret, and their four children.

Mr Ballantyne said in the past year Mr Drabble had suffered from Alzheimer's, which had been hard.

"He was a brilliant raconteur and to see him struggling to find words was really sad. "

As he started to lose his words, Mr Ballantyne said there had been one word that remained prominent in his vocabulary.

"Everything was "remarkable" and that sums him up for me. Of all the people I've met in my life, he was the most remarkable."

Taranaki Daily News