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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 49, September 2005

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Editor apologises to Mrs June Snelgar and her family for not publishing the complete Obituary for Bill in Journal No. 48, September 2004. The complete Obituary is printed below.


By Graham Watton

William Patrick Snelgar was born in Thames on 8 January, 1926 and was the youngest in a family of seven girls and three boys. He died suddenly at Waihi on 4 February 2004.

Bill, as he was known, commenced his schooling at the Grey Lynn Primary and then at Mt Albert Grammar, both in Auckland, before completing his secondary education at the Thames High School. While in Auckland, Bill was a member of the well-known Uncle Tom's Choir.

On leaving school, he became a cadet reporter for the local newspaper, the Thames Star, but found that this was not his calling. He changed to the Inland Revenue Department for a short period before joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force, towards the end of the Second World War and saw service as a Sergeant in the ground crews in the Pacific Islands, including the Guadalcanal.

It was while he was in the Air Force that Bill met June, who was in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. The romance blossomed and they were married in February 1948, at Hamilton. They moved to Paeroa in 1950, where many of Bill's relatives lived.

Bill commenced work as a clerk in the office of the long-standing Paeroa transport firm, Brenan and Company and quickly gained promotion through his meticulous records and pleasing personality. He was appointed manager of Brenan and Company's Atlantic Union Company's Paeroa branch, which was on the present site of Tony Richards Toyota. He earned the nickname, "Riley" from his friends, who reckoned that he lived a life like "The Life of Riley".

With the amalgamation of Brenan and Company and Sarjant's Transport at Netherton in the mid-1960s, which formed Provincial Transport, Bill was appointed Office Manager for one of the largest road transport firms in New Zealand at the time. Under the same umbrella there were two oil company branches, Atlantic (Brenan's) and Shell (Sarjant's had an agency for the Shell Petroleum Company), a road construction section and a fertiliser spreading company.

Bill retired in 1987, just as Provincial Transport was becoming involved in the then current ever-changing scene of company mergers, which finally led to the demise of Provincial Transport and, with it, the history of the two proud Thames Valley transport firms, which formed this firm.

Bill was a foundation member of the Paeroa Jaycee Chapter, serving on the Board and a term as President in the early 1960s. He was involved in many of the Chapter's community projects and his dedication to detail always ensured that those projects that he was involved in were a success. On his retirement from Jaycees at age 40, and in recognition of his outstanding service, he received the Senator's Award, which is Life Membership of Jaycee International. He immediately joined the Lions Club of Paeroa and continued his community involvement in this service club, serving as President, and was still an active member at the time of his passing.

Bill was Secretary Treasurer of the major Lion's Clubs' sponsored Kylie Strongman Liver Transplant Trust, which was established in 1994 and wound up in 2002. A massive fund-raising project saw approximately $113,000 raised to provide then four-year-old Kylie Strongman of Coromandel with a lifesaving liver transplant in Brisbane. Once Kylie was returned to full health, approximately $100,000 was donated by the Trust to Ronald McDonald House, a new hospice for children with cancer in Auckland, associated with the Starship Hospital.

Two weeks before Bill's passing, a healthy Kylie Strongman made one of her regular visits to Bill.

Bill was an efficient and wonderful organiser and there were many local groups and clubs who benefitted from these attributes. One of these was the Paeroa and District Historical Society for which he was honorary auditor for eleven years, up to the time of his passing. In the sporting world, Bill was an avid duck shooter from an early age. The stories of the exploits of himself, brother-in-law Watson Strong and their mate, Percy Collins, especially in the Kopuatai Swamp, in the Awaiti area, always had their many listeners reeling with laughter.

Bill was also a great storyteller, having an almost never-ending supply of yarns, which he told in any company.

Golf was another sport in which Bill became very keen, and while not reaching in single-figure handicap, he was always a tough competitor, but never allowing his high standard of sportsmanship to falter. He served on the Paeroa Golf Club's committee and was Club Captain in 1977 and served on the committee from 1988 to 1993.

Ocean beach fishing was a recreation he thoroughly enjoyed and he spent many hours with Phil Shaw in particular, putting out their kontikis and surf-casting off Waihi Beach. It was during one of these fishing trips that he collapsed on the beach and passed away. He was doing something he got great satisfaction from doing.

Gardening was also another hobby in which Bill took great pride. He received no greater satisfaction than to head off his old mate, the late Harold McIndoe, when comparing their vegetables.

In his retirement, Bill turned his attention to his family's genealogy and when on an overseas trip, he literally "dragged" June around many cemeteries in the United Kingdom, looking for headstones and information on the Snelgar family.

Bill is survived by his wife, June, son, Bill, his wife, Jocelyn, and their twin sons, Francis and Patrick. Bill was buried at the Omahu Cemetery, Townsend Road, Wharepoa, to be with many of his family.

While his family have lost a very devoted and loving husband, father and grandfather, the Paeroa district has lost one of its dedicated "backroom" workers, who gave of his time and knowledge freely to any good cause.