Anyone who met him was better for it.

That was a legacy left by popular community-minded Waverley farmer John Fettes Alexander.

John (aka JFA), passed away on August 29 and his life was celebrated at the Waverley Racecourse by more than 600 mourners on Monday, September 3, reflecting the measure of the man.

A large marquee had been erected in the birdcage and that, the members stand and surrounding areas were filled to capacity.

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Mourners pack the marquee and birdcage at the Waverley racecouse during John Alexander's farewell service.
Mourners pack the marquee and birdcage at the Waverley racecouse during John Alexander's farewell service.

John was one of six children of William and Margaret Alexander. He was born in 1929, a twin to Jean, who died at 16 months of age in 1930. He was a brother to Margaret, Alec, Ross and Anne, who later married Snow Lupton. Snow Lupton trained the mighty Kiwi to win the 1983 Melbourne Cup and put Waverley on the map.

Nearly 70 years ago John and his brother Ross, and two others from Waverley, volunteered and left to serve with the New Zealand Army in Korea (K Force) for two years from 1951.

John said that this was the longest time he had ever spent away from Waverley. In jest he he also said "it was a good holiday and it was well paid".

A third generation Alexander to farm at Waverley, John partnered up with brother Ross to farm as Alexander Brothers, a predominantly sheep and beef operation. They combined to break in much of the coastal land that makes up part of the farm today.

Ross, however, passed away early leaving John to carry on the farm that grew to 3500 acres carrying 2600 cattle and 7000 sheep.

In his younger days he was an amateur jockey and he would proudly admit — "I did all right too" and "I won a few races".

John married Josephine Cunningham in 1965 and then along came Philippa, Jane, Bridget and David, who is considerably younger than his siblings.

John Alexander was a rock and a legend to his family and Waverley community.
John Alexander was a rock and a legend to his family and Waverley community.

In the early 70s, the Waipipi ironsands mining project came to Waverley and they had permission to use John's farmland for access. In later years he admitted the mining project made an improvement to his farm as many of the sandhills had a fair bit of levelling off.

Son David said his dad brokered deals with the ironsand company to ensure local workers gained a fair deal.

In 1993 tragedy struck the Alexander family when Josephine died suddenly. John never remarried preferring to focus on his family, the farm and the many community organisations he joined.

John Alexander was a life member of the Waverley Racing Club, the Egmont Wanganui Hunt, the Waverley RSA, the Waverley A & P Show and the Lions Club of which he was also a founding member.

In the late 1990s John travelled to Italy to see his chestnut gelding, Demasta, win two races and place fourth under the care of Wanganui trainer Kevin Myers. John had trained Demasta himself as a two and three-year-old.

John Alexander's racehorse Demasta won in New Zealand, Australia and Italy.
John Alexander's racehorse Demasta won in New Zealand, Australia and Italy.

John would proudly tell people: "I've watched my horse winning races in New Zealand, Australia and Italy — not many people can say that."

He also accompanied Anne and Snow Lupton to watch Kiwi down them in the Melbourne Cup and later to watch the horse run fifth in the Japan Cup.

In 2010 John moved into Waverley township to Smith St, leaving the farm in the care of son David and his wife, Sarah. As a townie John's farm truck was retired and his fascination with Minis began. John has had four Minis always justifying the purchase of each one by saying the one he was trading in was nearly worn out.

Celebrant and family friend Margaret Prince who conducted John's service told the large crowd he would collect the mail from the PO box at the Waverley 4 Square then take it down to David and Sarah at the farm and then proceed to go off cross-country over the farm making sure David was doing things correctly. No wonder a new Mini was often needed.

During the Christmas period in 2017 John took delivery of a new mode of transport, his big bright red mobility scooter. It was like a cut-down version of his Red Mini Cooper S Countryman SE.

At first, John was not too keen to make this his main vehicle but soon he was convinced that this would be just what he needed to drive down to the local Main Street Café for his curried kumara soup and cappuccino which he did rain hail or shine if he was in town.

"Dad faced some challenges over the years, including the brucellosis outbreak on the farm in the late 1980s. After the farm tested positive 900 cattle were slaughtered - it was a dark day," David recalled.

"Dad loved his machinery and would try out and often end up buying new technology. He embraced technology in the farm and was still driving diggers well into his 80s. He could also keep up with the younger brigade at parties and functions. We called him Waverley's oldest 21-year-old.

"But he was dedicated to the farm, loved his Angus cattle.

"In the holidays as kids we would camp at the beach and dad would come for tea, but return to the farm to carry on working," David said.

John also spend time as mentor for a young nephew Warwick Lupton, son of Snow and sister Anne.

"John brought me up in my younger years when I was a bit wayward," Warwick recalled.

"He was one of the few who could control me. He was firm, but fair and we spent many a time mustering cattle. He gave me godfather lectures when I needed them. Dad and John were neighbours and very good mates. Like David said he loved his machinery and was like a kid in the sandpit at times. A lot of old people can't change, but he could. If there was some new machinery come out that was the duck's nuts, John would buy it.

"He had a young mind and whenever he talked about his days as an amateur rider he was always a champion. I was going through some old newspaper cuttings in a scrapbook and one report said he wasn't the prettiest rider. I wish I had known that earlier, I would have had a crack at him. John was a top bloke and anyone who met him was better for it," Warwick Lupton said.

To Philippa, Jane, Bridget and David and their families, John Alexander was a legend, a rock and an unselfish, down-to-earth good bugger.