Inglewood's David Ertel directed his first play aged 18, and his last two years ago at 82.
The teacher, director, actor, writer, singer and devoted theatre buff struggled with cancer before he died, aged 83, in his sleep on Monday night.
Mr Ertel taught English at high schools in Ohura, Stratford, New Plymouth, Inglewood and Porirua and was a pillar of the theatre community and instrumental in designing and setting up the Cue Theatre in Inglewood.
He was involved with more than 120 theatre productions, not counting school shows, and in 2011 directed Ghost Train at the Cue Theatre. "Theatre was a huge, huge part of his life. Apart from his family it was the main thing in his life. There's no question it was his passion," his wife Joan said.
Mr Ertel also had a bookshop in New Plymouth for five years and was a great lover of Shakespeare, particularly Macbeth.
Mrs Ertel said he was "a gentleman and a scholar" who used theatre to bring people out of their shells. "He would encourage people with no confidence, people who were shy or had disabilities to use theatre to gain confidence."
She said Mr Ertel's contribution to theatre had been prodigious.
"We went to an Ohura High School reunion before they closed it and there were so many people who would come up to him and tell him he was the first person who had taught them about theatre and music."
But he got as much back from his love of theatre as he gave to it.
"He made some incredible friends through it."
Mr Ertel was born in Sydney, but moved to New Zealand with his mother a short time later. He was in Hawke's Bay, aged 2, during the Napier earthquake in 1931 and then moved around the country, attending 12 different schools.
He met Mrs Ertel in Ardmore in Auckland more than 60 years ago and the pair settled in Inglewood, where they lived for the past 40 years.
Mr Ertel is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Another son, Jim Ertel, died aged 53 in a car crash in 2009 which also put Mr Ertel in hospital.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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