Patricia (Pat) Stella McMinn 1926-2018

A New Zealand dance, cabaret and recording legend whose love of performing spanned more than 75 years has died in Tauranga.

Pat McMinn passed away at Althorp Village on Wednesday aged 91, departing the stage as one of the country's last old-time showbiz personalities.

She shifted from Auckland to Tauranga in 1987, intending to retire, but resumed taking dance classes when she discovered the city had no tap teacher - entering a new phase of her eventful life.

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Married to veteran saxophonist and arranger Neil Randrup, she became known as ''Aunty Pat'' to her many tap and jazz dance students, continuing to teach into her late 70s.

Interviewed by the Bay of Plenty Times in 2008, she said she started with a few pupils in Tauranga and it mushroomed from there.

"I was good at what I did and I had some very good pupils. You don't look for these things, they just happen.''

She liked to stay involved and interested and even released a CD of her greatest hits in 2002.

Pat's lifetime service to entertainment, which included two stints singing and dancing for New Zealand troops in Korea in 1953-54, saw her honoured with an OBE in 1977.

She was a life member of the Performing Arts Competitions Society of New Zealand and the Tauranga Tap Dancing Association.

Pat started learning Highland dancing at the age of 6 or 7 when New Zealand was in the grip of the Depression.

''Life was fairly dull during the Depression and something like dancing took you away from the mundane parts of life,'' she told the Bay of Plenty Times.

The family moved from Taumarunui to Auckland when she was 8
where she continued dancing and entering competitions.

Pat had expanded her entertainment skills to singing when, at the age of 15 in 1942, she won a competition to sing at Auckland's Dixieland dance hall.

She soon became well known for her voice and attracted large crowds to her performances. During World War II, she worked during the day, taught young dancers in the evening and then headed off to sing at dance halls.

''I would get dressed up in a long frock and sing until midnight - it was a pretty busy time.''

For some, her name would always be associated with the 1956 song Opo the Crazy Dolphin. She recalled the recording session where she lined up on one side of a microphone while three male singers, The Stardusters, were on the other.

''It was all brand new, but we learnt it and recorded it by 1am.''

Children loved the song although its launch was overshadowed by Opo's death. Other popular songs she recorded for Tanza included the Doris Day single Mr Tap Toes and This Ole House.

Reputed to be New Zealand's first-ever female recording artist, the music industry rated her as probably the country's busiest vocalist of the early to mid-1950s for concerts and recordings. She even did advertising jingles and children's radio shows.

Tauranga dance teacher Susanne Hanger first met Pat in Auckland during the Peter Pan Ballroom era where Pat would sing while her girls danced.

Hanger remembered her as an old-school dance teacher, tough on pupils but very much admired. She recalled how Pat became active in Tauranga theatre productions.

''She was very respected, very well liked.''

Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said Pat was one of the last of the old-time showbiz people. He remembered her from his days at Tauranga Musical Theatre.

''She seemed to live for the stage and theatre - she was an all-rounder.''

A private family service will be held for Pat followed by a public celebration of her life. No date has been set for the celebration.

* In Auckland, an afternoon of entertainment to celebrate Aunty Pat's life and the legacy she created is planned for the Centennial Theatre on Saturday, July 14 from 2-5pm. Afternoon tea will follow the concert with a chance to catch up and share stories.