Goodbye Alan, Pukemokemoke’s best friend

Alan Leadley receives the Order of the Sickle Photo
Alan Leadley receives the Order of the Sickle Photo: Bryce McGuillan

Alan Leadley, gentleman, leader of the Friends of Pukemokemoke Bush Reserve and friend to all, passed away recently.

I first met Alan not long after starting Number 8 Network. He burst into my life overflowing with enthusiasm for the work going on at the little bush block in Tauhei. He had a genuine fondness for everyone involved with the project, and was an inspiration to all whose paths he crossed – oftentimes with a sickle in hand.

At a special dinner held in his honour earlier this year, he was named Pukemokemoke Volunteer of the Year and awarded the newly minted Order of The Sickle.

Warwick Silvester, chairman of the David Johnstone Pukemokemoke Bush Reserve Trust, said at the time that Alan had greatly accelerated the resuscitation of Pukemokemoke since taking on the role of manager/coordinator in 2007.

Alan put his heart and soul into the task. He formed the Friends of Pukemokemoke and managed endless working bees which have transformed the bush into what must be the district’s best and most well managed piece of bush.

Alan recently retired from the position due to poor health and on Thursday 19 February a dinner was held at ‘Just Food’ at Te Ara Hou to thank the Friends for all their good work but primarily to honour the selfless work that Alan has put in over the years. On the night mention was made of the progress of facilities at the bush, the enormous inroads into weed control, the now predator-free status but above all about Alan’s personal input into the whole ethos of the bush.

Alan’s energy, commitment and stimulation of good will amongst the Friends has been quite exceptional and the lasting memory of many will be his nurturing of a group of Pukemokemoke people, who while being friends of the bush and friends of his, have also developed friendships within the group that never would have chanced without his example and camaraderie.
To end a most enjoyable evening Alan was declared Pukemokemoke Volunteer of the Year and awarded the newly minted Order of The Sickle, an engraved sickle with all the names of past volunteers of the year, a tradition initiated by Alan.

…Alan was surrounded by friends with sickles, the sickle being the most used tool in the bush. The Pukemokemoke bush as we enjoy it today, is a tribute to a large number of loyal Friends and above all, to the leadership and example of Alan.

Roy Burke wrote the following tribute in Saturday’s Waikato Times:

Alan Leadley was a missionary with dirty hands and muddy boots. He was an environmentalist in the widest sense. His mission was love (the essence of Christ’s example) and his greater church was the world around us and the people in it.

He reached out to many faiths and encouraged his Chartwell parishioners to seek answers. Parishioner and friend Jock Crawford nailed it: “He paid his congregation the compliment of allowing them to think for themselves and didn’t expect them to hang their brains at the church door.”

One of the early exhortations at his funeral service on Friday, December 4, was Micah 6:8, promoting social justice. It was sung in Hebrew and spoken in English by Dr Todd Nachowitz, Alan’s friend and a member of Hamilton’s Jewish community.

One segment was a recorded message by Alan to those he was leaving. It was passionate, made more so by Alan’s obvious difficulty breathing, a condition that took his life on Tuesday, December 1.

It was a moving farewell. More than 600 over-crowded the Chartwell Cooperating Parish Church. Alan planned the service himself. He told Ken Olsen (who officiated) it would take an hour; Alan was wrong, it took two.

Alan is survived by wife Muriel, sons Simon and Matthew and grandsons Liam and Sean.

Born in Picton on November 26, 1943, Alan was the son of Amy and Clarry Leadley. At 16, he resolved to study for the Methodist ministry, which is not all that original or surprising – his great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all clergymen.

Alan arrived not long after his father escaped from the Japanese-overrun Solomon Islands. Clarry was appointed to the Picton parish. The family moved to Onehunga, Gisborne and back to Auckland. Alan was schooled at Onehunga Primary School, Gisborne Primary and Intermediate Schools, Gisborne Boys’ High School and Mt Albert Grammar.

He qualified as a BA at University of Auckland, winning a scholarship in geography, which he declined, choosing instead studies at Trinity Theological College. At Otago University, he studied Greek, Hebrew and Philosophy, graduating BD. In 1975, he took a master’s at University of Papua New Guinea with a thesis on the Japanese occupation. He had married Muriel in 1967 and they travelled widely, mostly on foot to remote villages in his research.

A great tramper, Alan teamed with friend Warwick Silvester to walk many parts of the world. Older, he took to cycling, 12-speeds and mountain bikes, till his lungs put an end to that. His last machine was an electric-assisted bike.

Appointments he held included principal of the Christian Education Training Centre in Rabaul PNG (1971-76), teaching at Westlake Girls’ High School (1977), Waikato Hospital chaplain (1977-1984), joint secretary of the Council for Mission and Ecumenical Cooperation (1984-1994), Chartwell Cooperating Parish (1994-2004), Waikato-Waiariki District Superintendent (1999-2004). For years he was a trustee of the DV Bryant Trust, and a leading force in development of the Pukemokemoke Bush Reserve.

Alan said: “The 45 years I have enjoyed as an active Methodist minister have been deeply satisfying, and I retired (in 2008) with a sense of thanks to God and to people of many shades of faith and worldview for the enrichment they have brought to my life.” He noted a progressive church focus on core principles rather than creedal statements (on the way of life inspired by Jesus rather than dogma). “I am aware that old certainties have gone. While there are multiple ways to understand ‘the divine spirit,’ my own theology has come to focus on God’s unconditional love and the essential goodness within us all.”

Rev Alan John Leadley, QSM, 1943-2015

Here is Alan talking about Pukemokemoke in 2011. “I do just enjoy the place. If it’s inclement weather, I can just sit there and listen to the birds and sounds of silence. A beautiful peace and tranquillity can be found out there.” Goodbye Alan, you are missed.

Click here for an earlier story on Alan.

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

One thought on “Goodbye Alan, Pukemokemoke’s best friend

  • December 15, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    The farewell celebratiion truely honoured Alan. A wonderful tribute to the gentleman who exemplified his faith in God by having time for people. Blessings and peace to his family


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