The RSA motto People Helping People was undoubtedly one that Dannevirke identity Tom Collier lived by.

Keith Ivan Thomas Collier died at the age of 93 on Sunday, November 22.

That Tom was one of Dannevirke's good blokes was a recurring theme of the many eulogies at his funeral on Monday, November 25.

Tom was of Scandinavian descent, of which he was very proud.


His maternal grandparents, Anders Hans Ihle and Marthe Marie Ihle, were original settlers of Palmerston North, emigrating from Norway and arriving in Palmerston North on February 15 1871.

A street in Palmerston North is named after them and Tom's grandfather was the first person to build a bridge over the Manawatū River in Palmerston North at the current location of the Fitzherbert Bridge.

There were 11 children, with the first two born in Norway, the rest in Palmerston North.
Tom's mother, Cecelia Minnie, was the second to youngest.

Tom's father, Thomas, was a woolclasser prior to the Great Depression and like many others at that time found little or no work.

His mother was a very good piano player and would teach the children Norwegian songs.

Tom was seventh of 10 children and was the last of that generation. He was born in Mangamutu, Pahiatua.

They were, in order, Jack, Lorraine, Merle, Joan, Noel (Tuddy), Pat, Tom, Laurence (Winky), Cecil (Coo) and Nancy.

The family moved to Dannevirke when Tom was five.


In an interview published in the Dannevirke News in 2000, Tom recalled being dragged screaming and crying to his first day at school at age six.

"I was terrified of the teachers, but learned to put up with it."

Tom left school after his last day at primary school, working at Gibbs Nursery from 1941 to 1947.

During that time Tom was told by Convent nun Sister Canning that he had a job on a dairy farm at Bunnythorpe.

He did as he was told and found himself in the unfamiliar environment of working with animals.

Tom said he was told all he had to do to get the cows in for milking was to take the dog with him.

"Not knowing anything about animals I asked how did I get the dog to bark. I was told 'just say speak up laddie.' I was amazed that it worked."

It was a short-lived career change and Tom returned to Gibbs Nursery after seven weeks on the farm.

It was at this time Tom's military career began when he joined J Force in 1947, serving with the Medical Corps at Kiwa General Medical Hospital in the Yamaguchi Prefecture.

While on leave he visited Hiroshima and saw first hand the devastation there.

After a return to Dannevirke, Tom resumed working at Gibbs Nursery but was offered a job working for Sandy McIntosh Contractors.

Sandy had a contract to supply ABC Bottlers with wooden crates but was legendary around the district for his skill with a crosscut saw.

But Tom's time in the army wasn't over and he joined K Force and served in Korea.

On his return to Dannevirke, Tom joined stockfirm Murray Roberts as a storeman. He worked there until 1966, ending up as a produce agent/salesman.

From there Tom worked for Hay and Watsons hardware store as office manager but when that closed down he worked briefly for Les Hedges Agricultural Contractor.

That same year he was offered the a job with the Dannevirke Borough Council at the Domain and so began a long association.

Cr Wally Dew told Tom the sexton's job at the Dannevirke Cemetery was coming up.

According to the Evening News interview, Tom told Wally he had goose bumps just talking about the job.

When Wally told Tom the job was a salaried one and therefore had a big difference in pay, Tom replied: "I can feel the goosebumps disappearing rapidly."

He started there in 1970 and dug more than his fair share of graves.

Tom told the story of the fun he had with funeral director John Healey, who once introduced Tom to a visitor as the only sexton in New Zealand who could hide behind a shovel handle.

When Tom's brother Tuddy retired in 1986 as the council's parks and reserves manager, Tom was appointed to the position which he held until his retirement in 1991.

At Monday's meeting of the Dannevirke Community Board mayor Tracey Collis paid tribute to Tom's years of service to the borough and the district.

"A lot of the beauty around our town is due to Tom and Tuddy."

Retirement didn't slow Tom down. He was very active with cutting and supplying a huge amount of firewood to various people around the town and helping elderly people with their gardens.

He assisted with the relocation of the Matamau Cemetery.

In his eulogy to his father, young Tom said it was a project that was very special to him and he performed his duties with respect and dignity.

He said one of his father's core values was to put others first.

"Dad was a strong values driven person and the RSA motto was his decree - People Helping People.

"He would never turn down someone needing assistance.

"Loyalty to family is another strong trait. A number of years ago Dad got sick of only seeing everyone at funerals so he put a plan in place to have a Collier family reunion in Dannevirke at Easter 2001. He was very happy to see all the Colliers at a happier occasion."

Daughter Lynley Densham spoke of Tom's sense of humour and how their family home as full of laughter.

"Dad was a fun dad. I don't ever not remember him not playing cricket on the back lawn with us or pushing us around the block on the old go-cart. He had probably dug a grave that day but still didn't complain.

"As a child I thought Dad was very religious and those of you who knew his background know that's definitely not the case. Every Sunday morning for years, he would go off to Sunday School. He would often come home and go straight to bed. I thought they must do a lot of learning there and he was tired. The fill your own flagon that he took should've given me a big clue."

Tom Collier received an award for 40 years' service to the Dannevirke RSA executive from David Moloney, the national vice president of RSA in 2011.
Tom Collier received an award for 40 years' service to the Dannevirke RSA executive from David Moloney, the national vice president of RSA in 2011.

Dannevirke RSA past president Roly Ellis said Tom had given long and distinguished service to the RSA.

"This is a very sad day. Tom was an extremely good member who has given so much as a serviceman and also to the RSA over many years. His local knowledge has been invaluable in helping members in need. Tom has been a real stalwart and highly respected by us all."

Undoubtedly the last word on Tom goes to his brother-in-law Gerald Smith who summed him up well.

"Tom was a really good bugger."