Sunday, June 23, 2024

A sad farewell to Les Howard, QSM

By Terry King

August 1929 – April 2023

Les Howard was a man of integrity and strong principles. A former Grey Power president, he was a close friend of mine. And he didn’t hesitate to challenge anyone no matter their position if he thought their approach to issues affecting Grey Power warranted a strong response.

Born in Timaru in 1929, Les spent most of his working life in the South Canterbury Freezing Works, apart from five years in the Regular Force of the New Zealand Army at Trentham and Burnham, where he completed an instructor’s course before being posted to instruct CMT cadets and then take over the pay and records division at Addington Barracks.

He made his reputation as an outstanding conciliator and trade union delegate, the representative of the South Canterbury works on the Canterbury Meat Workers Union for 22 years, and as a much-respected advocate for his fellow workers.

He met and married Ann in Christchurch in 1952. Ann, also a GP member, supported Les throughout his working and GP life, and at one stage served as membership secretary of the Temuka Association.

A GP stalwart

A member of Grey Power since his retirement in 1992 Les was secretary and president of the Timaru association and president of the Temuka association.

As Zone 6 (Canterbury) chairman for six years and a Board Member since 2002, Les was a member of the Parliamentary lobby team for five years, with Graham Stairmand, Denis Paget, Dick Stark and others before taking over as Team Leader on becoming National President in 2008.

With a strong social conscience, Les firmly believed in the importance of lobbying and was heavily involved with the needs of the elderly covering such areas as Health, pensioner housing, and elder driver issues. He was instrumental in having the over 80s driving tests abolished and led the initiative of un-announced spot Audit checks of Rest Homes. Les’ voluntary work was acknowledged in the 2010 Queens Birthday Honours when he received the QSM.

Les recognised Grey Power as a voting block and believed there was potential for the organisation to double its membership, which at the time was 100,000. Such numbers would make it even harder for politicians to disregard its lobbying.

Federation Office Data Manager, Janice Harding described Les as a straight shooter and a thorough gentleman who as National President until 2011 visited the Office on a regular basis. He was very personable with a kindly manner and a great sense of humour.

Janice said after standing aside from the top job he would still phone periodically for a chat and the latest joke. She said he was just a lovely man and a delight to know.

Mutual respect and friendship

Former National Treasurer and Federation Life Member, Graham Adams, said during his time on the Board Les and he developed a mutual respect and friendship.

There were occasions when they both agreed to disagree on a particular stance, but these occasions were rare and always concluded with the relationship intact. Graham said in fact, Les would occasionally ring for a chat long after both had left the Board. Graham said he derived much pleasure from a surprise visit to Les and Ann in Timaru about four years ago. Les’ contribution to Grey Power was immense.

National President Jan Pentecost said it was through Les as Zone Six Director that she became involved in Grey Power and eventually assumed the position of National Secretary for many years. She said Les was absolutely committed to Grey Power, but at the same time continued his voluntary social activities since retirement. In particular this included his involvement with SeniorNet, Community Watch, and Neighbourhood Support South Canterbury.

Les said you have to keep involved so you stay in touch with people and how they are thinking because it helps in the development of Grey Power policy. Les remained very supportive of Jan when she became National President

Jan said his was a life well lived and he left his mark on Grey Power.

Les Howard will be sadly missed.

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