Obituary: War hero and local entertainer farewelled

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Vic Viggers (left) tromboning with The Dixielanders on Marine Parade, Napier, in a summery mid-winter Deco Decanted in 2003, when he was 83.
Vic Viggers (left) tromboning with The Dixielanders on Marine Parade, Napier, in a summery mid-winter Deco Decanted in 2003, when he was 83.

A decorated RAF World War II bomb squadron member who became one of Hawke's Bay's greatest entertainment personalities, Vic Viggers was farewelled yesterday after passing away just five weeks short of what would have been his 96th birthday.

Mr Viggers, who was born in Wales and came to New Zealand at the age of 7, died on Monday, and yesterday more than 130 people attended his funeral at Dunstall Memorial Chapel, in Napier, led by RSA chaplain Father Bill Chapman.

Vic Viggers.
Vic Viggers.

They heard he flew 29 missions over Europe as a radio operator with 101 Squadron, and spent 60 years first drumming and then tromboning, playing the tenor horn, singing and joking his way across the varied stages of Hawke's Bay, usually with a unique comic flair delivered at quicker than a gag a minute.

He was decorated in both spheres, with a Distinguished Flying Cross after 19 sorties as a wireless operator and air gunner in the Battle of Berlin, and a string of life memberships, a scroll of honour from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand, and ultimately a 2010 New Year Honours Queen's Service Medal for his contribution to entertainment.

He was particularly well known as a member of The Dixielanders, a popular jazz ensemble troupe spanning more than 40 years of already rich Hawke's Bay music and entertainment, from the Napier Frivolity Minstrels, to the Cossie Club, the RSA, restaurants and wider public venues such as the Soundshell on Marine Parade and Art Deco celebrations, and welcoming cruise line passengers to Napier, services for which they received Art Deco Supreme Award in 2000.

Another honour, perhaps, were photos on the walls of the now long-gone Victorial Hotel of Napier hospitality and liquor trade stalwart Basil Diack. The pub was commonly known as the The Vic, although probably not named after the gentleman who performed so popularly and regularly within its walls.

The Dixielanders' acclaim also spread nationwide.

They also made it onto TV, in Griffins advertisements filmed on a local beach and two of the nation-consuming Telethon 24-hour fundraisers.

Vic Viggers had also teamed up with the town hall quiz and variety shows of the late Jack Maybury and son John Maybury, who at 87 wrote one message to be read at yesterday's service.

Most yesterday recalled the quickness of the one-liners, and how wife Betty (nee Fearn), the Puketapu girl he married while on war leave in 1941, was often the subject of them during their 73 years of married life, which ended when she died last year.

Interviewed in the couple's Summerset retirement unit when named a recipient of the QSM, Vic Viggers was at the age of 89 in full stride, saying: "Betty and I have had 25 wonderful years together ... which isn't bad out of 67."

His wife, having long given up suffering over it, rolled her eyes, laughed and said: "Now you're being cheeky."

Having come so far to live in Napier with father Thomas Charles Viggers, and mother Winifred Dorothy Viggers when he was just five, he could have gone much further, but he loved the new hometown, and it was in Napier that he established a car painting business in Napier, with a particular penchant for teaching the trade at a workshop in Swan St.

It was in Napier also that he and his wife raised sons Philip and Paul and daughter Sue, who all remain in the region.

He is also survived by four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

* Victor Charles (Vic)
* March 15, 1920 to February 8, 2016

- Hawkes Bay Today

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