A spoonful a day for 100 years

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Obituary: John Dudley Lorimer, 1915-2014
By Roy Burke

Honey was Dudley Lorimer’s longevity weapon; he was a notable beekeeper and stirred a half-tablespoon of nature’s gift into his porridge every day. He claims it kept him fit and active despite an enemy bullet that pierced his lung at Ruweisat Ridge, Western Desert, in 1942. He carried it lodged close to his spine for the rest of his life.

Dudley Lorimer
Dudley Lorimer

It wasn’t the bullet than claimed Dudley’s life on Wednesday, April 16 – it was a century of wear and tear. Dudley died at Hamilton’s Trevellyn Lifestyle and Care Village in his 100th year. Dudley’s wife Yvonne died in 2000. He is survived by two adopted sons, Peter and Tony. Tony with wife Jane now run Dudley’s Hillcrest Apiaries in Tamahere.

Tall, pole-thin and hard-working, Dudley was progeny of stock who believed “life is real and life is earnest”. He was born at Kihikihi on January 18, 1915, the second of three sons of Elizabeth and George Lorimer. George was a farmer, a Boer War and World War 1 veteran, and self-reliance was his creed. After World War 1 George and his bother were granted an 80ha “rehab” property at Te Rore (near Pirongia). There Dudley learned about country life – and was a good shot with a light rifle by the age of 7. His earliest school was at Kihikihi Primary School, then at Te Rore when the Lorimers took up the new farm. “I didn’t take school seriously,” Dudley confessed. He was sent to Hamilton where he boarded and attended Hamilton Tech. His sports were rugby (he broke a collarbone), tennis, table tennis and lawn bowls in later years.

Dudley left school at 16, and it was a parting of the ways – “It’s down the road,” his father announced. It was 1931 and hard depression years for farmers. Dudley’s first job was on a dairy farm at five shillings a week. He lived mostly on turnips. His home was a whare with a dirt floor – and not long after he arrived a sow farrowed under his bed. Bankrupt farmers were walking off the land. Dudley was “let go” with winter’s onset.

He got farmhand jobs and in late teens was employed by respected beekeeper Bert Davies, and found his true niche in life. At 20 Dudley was secretary of the South Auckland branch of the New Zealand Beekeepers Association, and learning fast.

In 1936 he became a territorial with Waikato Mounted Rifles, a keen part-time interest with many young men.

He was saving a bit of money and bought a car. He credited the car with one of his big “wins” – Yvonne Ford, from Whanganui, reputedly Matron Doris Menzies’ top nurse at Waikato Hospital. They married in 1940.

Dudley had volunteered for service overseas and was called up in 1941 in the rank of corporal. He served two years in the Middle East before a bullet through the right lung invalided him home. Dudley spoke little of El Alamein and the Ruweisat Ridge attack where he was wounded. Other accounts testify it was a High Command organisational disaster.

A return to beekeeping suited Dudley exactly. In business on his own account Hillcrest Apiaries flourished.

In 2008, aged 93, Dudley received a Hamilton Civic Award in recognition of his continued services to the community, which included eight years as a Meals-on-Wheels driver. He was also a life member of the Waikato Mounted Rifles and an honorary member of the Hamilton Probus Club.

Hillcrest Apiaries on Tauwhare Rd continues to flourish today under the ownership of son Tony and daughter-in-law Jane. They are both at the sharp edge of the business. Jane (with a valuable science degree) is a past president of the national beekeepers association. Dudley was a past vice-president and life member. Son Peter (with a double degree in law and economics) is a senior figure in Treasury.

Till his last Dudley gifted friends with jars of honey. “Honey is my sweetener,” he said.

* Roy Burke was a long time friend of Dudley’s and at Dudley’s request interviewed him for this obituary. Dudley read and approved it.

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