Obituary: Harley James Taylor


One of Hawke's Bay's best-known hardware merchants died in Napier recently.

Harley Taylor, whose eponymous business, set up in the 1950s, now trades as HTL Hardware, began working in wood as a schoolboy in his father's shed.

He later sold timber and hardware to builders in Hawke's Bay, Poverty Bay and Taupo, while travelling for Napier firm Timber and Building Supplies before setting up on his own in the new Onekawa industrial area.

Harley - "like the motorcycle," he would tell people - grew up opposite Nelson Park School in the house his grandparents owned, after the 1931 earthquake destroyed his parents' home. He attended Nelson Park and later Napier Boys' High School, where he became the cadet corps' regimental sergeant major - although when offered an officer training scholarship to the Royal Military College in Duntroon, Australia, he turned it down as his father, Wally, was away at Guadalcanal with the RNZAF.

As a boy, Harley would go out in a small boat with Wally - an experienced amateur radio operator who ran a radio station from home - to establish ship-to-shore communication with vessels arriving in port.

A keen Idle Along sailor in his youth who later built powerboats with his father at his hardware store, Harley wanted to be an architect.

But with the architecture school closed for the war, he began work as a draughtsman designing houses and flats for Charlie Butcher, who built many of the houses on Tom Parker Ave that are now regular stops on Art Deco tours.

Newlywed to Betty Hayes of Puketapu, he built his own home next to Butcher's flats on the corner of Kennedy Rd and Douglas McLean Ave, where he and Betty raised three daughters and a son.

One day in 1958, a passing preacher walked into Harley's office and asked: "Are you saved?" It was a life-changing moment.

The Billy Graham crusades followed, along with others from the Napier Baptist Church, which the family joined, and the Taylors hosted visiting preachers and musicians.

A valuable committee member, Harley served as president of Lions, the Chamber of Commerce and the Christian Businessmen's Association, and was a deacon and church secretary for Napier Baptist. His business, organisational and building skills all came together for the fundraising and building of the new church on Riverbend Rd, designed by architect Martin Yeoman.

They travelled extensively, Betty always by his side - including two years in their mid-50s in Mt Hagen, Papua New Guinea, where Harley trained indigenous workers in the timber industry to support an Australian church mission.

On his return, the born salesman began a late but successful career selling life insurance for AMP - winning more overseas trips as a result.

After Betty died of cancer nine years ago, Harley's greatest pleasure was to sit in his sunny hillside home above the shipping lanes, with his golden retriever Fleur, watching boats come and go in the shipping lanes he once sailed as a boy.

And just as he had always wanted, he died there.

He is survived by daughters Ann Packer, Robyn Caird and Shelley Taylor.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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