At 100, Jack Beckerleg still loves gardening, enjoys playing bowls and happily walks with a bottle of red wine to the cafe at the Dannemora Gardens-Metlifecare Retirement Village.
While there are a series of private parties with different groups planned to celebrate his 100th birthday on June 10 Times met him four days prior to the big day) Jack jokes that he is going to put a notice outside his door saying `Gone on Holiday’.
Dannenora Gardens, where he has been living for the last 17 years, has planned a complimentary afternoon tea with bubbles and a toast to celebrate Jack’s milestone.
He is the first centenarian of the village.
Jack attributes his good health to good genes, playing rugby and living a moderate life.
“I even played rugby for the Navy in Malta when I was stationed there during the war,” he says.
He talks of the time he used to cycle from Auckland to Hamilton with his older brother.
“We would start at 4am and though I disliked the loose metal on the gravel road between Ngaruawahia and Huntly, we enjoyed it.”
Proudly pointing to the wall that has a mounted photograph of him horse riding, he laughs saying someone once captioned the picture “93 and still in the saddle!”.
While there are a lot of interesting chapters to his long life, the one he enjoys talking about most is the time he joined the Royal NZ Navy after training at the Air Force base at Wigram Christchurch.
He was then drafted overseas to Malta, via Durban and Cairo. As a sole New Zealander at the station, his job as a wireless mechanic was to maintain the wireless sets and transmitters for communications from North Africa and major submarines.
He says the high point was when he returned to New Zealand in 1945 and joined his father’s firm in High Street, Auckland to work as a barrister. He clearly remembers the day when the gold lettering on the window of their office went up to read Beckerleg & Beckerleg. Jack later specialised in estates, taxes and conveyancing.
The centenarian has a daughter, Sue, from his first wife Fay before they were divorced. He met his second wife Enid at a bowling club and often traveled with her to play bowls tournaments in Northern Ireland and the Gold Coast.
Jack and Enid’s marriage ceremony was held at the home they built in Haseler Crescent, Howick.
Enid had a daughter, Sharon, from her first marriage. Sadly, Enid passed away last year in July at the age of 94 and Jack misses her.
At a time when most people are gradually getting disconnected from their families, Jack’s simple advice to Times reader is: “If you have a problem, discuss it with your mum and dad. They may at first growl a little but then will always help you.”