Joe Askew: A master of many trades

By Craig Cooper

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Joe Askew passed away on March 9.
Joe Askew passed away on March 9.

Funerals are funny things.

And I don't mean humorous, although there is often laughter juxtaposed with tears.

I mean funny in the quizzical sense, in that you often learn things about the departed person, that opens your eyes as to the person they were.

I attended the funeral this week of former Northern Advocate chief reporter and leader writer Joe Askew.

I didn't know Joe particularly well - enough to stop and say "hello" in the street.

There aren't a lot of journalists in Northland, we tend to stay friendly with each other.

And as editor, I wanted to be there given Joe's long history with the paper.

Joe left the media industry in 1990 just before I entered it.

His generation belted out stories on manual typewriters - no computers, that was circa 1993/4 for Northland.

But he would have been savvy with computers in his varied subsequent roles with John Banks MP.

Joe was Banks' press and electorate secretary. They were close - Banks spoke warmly of Joe at his funeral.

He reckoned Joe was a loyal designer mate - the kind of mate you would have if you could sit down and design-a-mate.

Banks recalled that Joe had joined him in his ministerial office for only 11 days when the 1990 Aramoana massacre happened.

"He was so good with the global media, that Bolger the Prime Minister used to defer to him at times of crisis."

A lifelong Arsenal fan, other speakers talked of Joe being formative in getting football up and running in Northland.

He wrote a book about the first 50 years of Northland football.

And he even wrote part of his own eulogy.

It was factual, concise, to the point and poignant - when writing it, he would not have known the date of his death, so it ended with a phrase being read "he remained a patron of the (FC Whangarei) club until (dot dot dot)".

But it was the spoken and written words from Joe's sons and grandchildren that stood out.

Which Joe would have enjoyed, because he was particular with the use of the English language and its many nuances.

Going on the impressive display by his grandkids, there is a journalist or poet among them.

But when your poppa was also a mechanic, a market gardener, a taxi driver, a deli owner, a fitter and turner, an engineer and a football coach, well, who knows what wonderful things await.

- Northern Advocate

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