David John (Dave) Henry Obituary

By Kay Sinclair | Posted: Monday June 26, 2017

Otago Boys' High School Old Boy Dave Henry (1951-54) led a full life recognised by many for his dedication to walking and charitable causes over the years.

Dave Henry became famous for walking every street in Dunedin – 10 times in 20 years. But there was much more to this former bank manager than a dedication to walking.

An accomplished debater with an infectious personality, Mr Henry put his verbal and physical skills to good use helping raise funds for charitable causes over the years.

And despite his increasing health problems in more recent times, he achieved more than most during his 79 years.

Mr Henry died in Dunedin on May 23, six days after his 79th birthday.

Born in Dunedin on May 17, 1938, Mr Henry was the youngest of three children of Dunedin storeman Frank Henry and his wife Olive (nee Thomas). His older brothers Alvin and Laurie are both dead.

Even from the 1941 days of “the battlefields of Kaikorai Kindergarten”, the young Dave Henry’s talent for talking with people and making fiends was evident, longtime friend Keith Robinson said.

His mother “had a real soft spot” for Mr Henry, who was soon able to wrap her “around his little finger”.

By way of contrast, one of Mr Henry’s earliest recollections, described in a personal memoir, was of being sent home for spitting water at the girls on his first day at Kaikorai Primary School.

He grew up in Kaikorai and “being a good Kaikorai lad”, loved all sports, particularly cricket, rugby and indoor basketball. As a sportsman, he was “a natural”, Mr Robinson said.

Whether it was athletics, swimming, darts, table tennis, snooker or pool, “no matter what he turned his hand to, I could never get the better of him”.

Mr Henry was an excellent halfback, captaining the Kaikorai 5th grade team in its 1955 competition win, and he represented Otago in junior grade rugby.

A “competitive cricketer”, he captained the Kaikorai B Grade and 3rd Grade teams to wins in the 1961 and 1962 competitions, one of his claims to fame being that he scored three centuries.

And, although he was the smallest player on the indoor basketball courts, he played for the Kaikorai Cricket Club A grade basketball team for six years, the team winning the competition five times in those six years. For many years he also coached the Port Chalmers women’s basketball team which won three competitions.

After his primary school days at Kaikorai, Mr Henry attended Otago Boys’ High School. He acknowledged studying was not “his forte” – he missed school certificate by 12 marks – but went on to a successful, 33 year career in banking, starting work at the Dunedin Savings Bank in 1955.

When the bank expanded to Roxburgh 10 years later, Mr Henry was the first branch manager. In 1968, he transferred to Balclutha, managing that branch for four years before returning as manager to the man branch in Dowling St until 1984. He then had four years as marketing manager.

While in both Roxburgh and Balclutha, Mr Henry was very much involved in the life of the community, joining and becoming president of the local Jaycees, leading and being marked top speaker in the Otago/Southland Jaycees debating team, and acting as treasurer for both the Roxburgh St John Ambulance and the Roxburgh Memorial Hall committee redevelopment fund.

He also managed to score prizes at the Mt Benger A & P Show with his home-grown vegetables and continued that tradition back in Dunedin with Otago A & P Show prizes for his tomato relish.

In Balclutha, he helped set up the Youth Adventure Trust and build the trust’s camp at Tautuku in the Catlins. He was also regional co-ordinator for a Jaycee/Atlantic sponsored programme called Teenager Driver of the Year, his organisational skills ensuring that 16 of 23 Chapters implemented the programme.

His commitment to Jaycees saw him made a senator (life member) in 1972. Mr Henry left banking in 1988 to work for Age Concern Otago.

As executive officer he helped organise many of the services now available to the elderly and disabled, such as rest home visits to lonely residents, the South Dunedin Activities Centre for those with restricted mobility, the “Age on the Go” programme, the telephone friendship club and the good neighbor service. He also oversaw the $450,000 revamp of the Octagon premises which was achieved, debt free.

In 1994, he started a regular “Age Concern Access Radio Show” on Radio Dunedin and received a Community Access Radio Achievement Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to community radio in Otago.

One of the many topics discussed on the show was walking, something Mr Henry had taken up “just for exercise” in 1991, about 10 years after giving up a 25 year heavy smoking habit. He suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, had only 40% capacity in his left lung and had asthma and emphysema. He began walking for the good of his health.

At the time, he was involved with the Hillary Commission for Recreation and Sport which concentrated on activities for older adults. He started with walking around the block where he lived. But he became bored with that and the idea evolved of walking all streets in the greater Dunedin area. After walking each street he would mark it off on a map.

In 1992, he was the first person to walk the annual “Gutbuster” in Baldwin St, the steepest street in the world. Also in 1992 and again in 1994, he was the only person to walk the full Moro Marathon in Dunedin.

By March 10, 2011, Mr Henry had completed 10 walks of all of greater Dunedin’s streets. The last of those walks, which he persuaded his family and friends to sponsor, began in November 2009. It was expanded to include Middlemarch, Karitane, Waikouaiti, Waitati, Henley, Warrington and Brighton and raised $4500 for the Ronald McDonald House South Island.

His partner, Annemarie Jorissen, is co-ordinator of a volunteer group that raises money and awareness of the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Dunedin. Mr Henry actively supported Annemarie and her work, his ideas including the now annual Dunedin street appeal and the annual fundraising charter of the Taieri Gorge Train.

He was a life member of the Otago Excursion Train Trust and his ongoing love of trains prompted him to become a commentator on the Taieri Gorge Train in 2002, retiring in 2014 because of ill health.

In the 2011 Senior New Zealander of the Year Awards, he received a Certificate of Achievement in both the Senior New Zealander of the Year and Local Heroes categories. He was also awarded a Local Heroes Medal.

The Previous year, Mr Henry received a certificate of appreciation from the Methodist Mission (Dunedin) to acknowledge his fundraising skill and all-round good nature in his work raising over $820,000 for the mission’s work in the community.

In 2006, he was nominated in The Star as unsung hero who made a real difference to the community for “inspiring others to walk for health”. Several years earlier, as a non-Rotarian, he was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship in recognition of his contribution to the Dunedin community, particularly its elderly members.

He received a Supreme Achievers- COPD Award from the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation in 2007 as well as a medal from the Osteoporosis Society for his contribution to raising awareness of the benefits of regular physical activity.

And he was awarded a New Zealand Defence Service Medal in August 2011 as recognition for attested military service for New Zealand.

On August 16, 1965, Mr Henry married Alison Dove, a typist in Dunedin. They had two children Phillip and Sharon. The couple separated in 1975. In 1979 he and Annemarie Jorissen became partners. Mr Henry was immensely proud of his son and daughter and of his grandchildren.

Despite distance and time zones, he played a strong guiding role in the life road map of both Phillip, who moved up the ranks of the New Zealand Navy, then the Australian Navy and was now commanding officer of the guided missile frigate HMAS Darwin, and Sharon, a bachelor of nursing, who lives in Perth and is studying for a graduate diploma in occupational safety and health.

Mr Henry is survived by partner Annemarie, his first wife Alison, his son and daughter, Phillip and Sharon and his six grandchildren.