Obituaries

By Laurel Stowell


Roy and Gwen Eaton were a kind, sociable, productive, multi-talented Wanganui couple who died within days of each other last month.
Roy will be known for his part in the family business Eaton & Marshall Ltd, now known as Roy Eaton Automotive, but he also had a busy and useful 25-year retirement. His wife was an equally creative member of society until her final years were crippled with arthritis.
Roy was multi-talented. He was an engineer, motor mechanic, metal worker, aircraft fitter, carpenter, pattern maker, gardener, concrete block maker and layer and model maker in aero and steam.
Gwen was a career homemaker. She cooked, sewed and knitted for the family, watched her children play sport on cold mornings and kept a wonderful flower garden.
Though always busy, the pair found time to help others and were always welcoming to friends and family. Roy was born in Wanganui in 1918 and went to Gonville, Tawhero and Westmere schools, and then to Wanganui Technical College. He and his father were keen aero modellers.
After leaving school he took up an engineering apprenticeship with Ossie Allen's Garage, then went on to work with his father at Eaton & Marshall Ltd on Ridgway St. He lived through the Depression and acquired a lifelong habit of hard work.
During World War 2 he worked as ground crew for the New Zealand Air Force, maintaining aircraft and training young people. Some of this time was spent at Harewood, near Christchurch.
It was there he met Gwen, who was born in Southland in 1918 and later lived in Timaru, where she played basketball and worked in her sister's guest house. During the war years she became a Corporal and Staff Leader in the sergeants' mess at Harewood.
After the war the two married in Christchurch.

Soon after that Roy's father was ailing and they returned to Wanganui and the family business, settling first in a small house in Cornfoot St where their three youngest children were born.
Roy never believed in borrowing money. When the Cornfoot St house became too small he set about building a larger home in Burns St.
He first purchased a concrete mixer, then cleared the large section and grew crops which were sold at the local market and the money used to purchase tools and building materials. One tool was a concrete block maker, and he eventually made thousands of concrete blocks for the Burns St house, where the couple lived from 1956 to 1991.
His father died in 1956 and he took over the day to day running of Eaton & Marshall, adding engine reconditioning to the busy shop and garage. Over the next 20 years he modernised the business, adding high-tech machines such as a crankshaft grinder.
He was always meticulous with finish and detail. During this time he became an active member of the New Zealand Engine Reconditioners' Association and of the Wanganui Retail Motor Association (later the MTA), and served on its apprenticeship committee. Many a grown man recalls Roy Eaton chasing him up as a young apprentice.
With his work ethic driving him Roy laboured hard, sometimes seven days a week. But the family also found time for outings together, usually for a useful purpose such as fishing, hunting or gathering mushrooms or blackberries.
Despite his busy life Roy and his wife found a surprising amount of time to help other people. There was always someone coming to the house or ringing up for something urgent to be done. He even went off on some Christmas days to fix hay balers if a crop needed to be baled.
Roy had a small heart tremor in 1979, and retired at the age of 60, only to begin a 25-year plus active retirement. He made working and model steam engines and repaired objects of metal and wood in his Burns St workshop.
The couple made several overseas trips and played bowls at the St Johns Club. He carried on growing vegetables while she grew flowers. He also spent a lot of time fishing at Lake Taupo with his cousin, and many a family member was treated to a smoked trout.
Gwen went into a hospital in late February and he followed her there a week later. They were both there until Roy died on April 9 and his wife four days later.
They are survived by their children Roy, Margaret, Graham and Geoffrey.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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