By GUY WILLIAMS
Queenstown’s centenarian, the remarkable Alex McBurney, was farewelled by 250 people in Invercargill on Monday.
The oldest World War II veteran living in the Wakatipu, Alex turned 100 on June 20, celebrating the milestone with his family, including his six grandchildren and 13 great-
Son Peter says his father became ill late last month, and spent a week at Lakes District Hospital before dying at Hospice Southland last Wednesday, surrounded by his family.
‘‘His body was telling him it’s time, and he accepted that.
‘‘He’d wanted to go to bed on his birthday and not wake up the next morning.’’
The big turnout at his funeral — double the number expected — was ‘‘keeping me going’’, Peter says.
‘‘Because he did it his way, he’d organised it.
‘‘I haven’t grieved so much with Dad, and I think it’s because he was 100, and he’s organised his whole life, and he’s even organised the end of his life.
“Given what he’s achieved, I’m really happy — it’s been a celebration.’’
Mountain Scene reported in June Alex was called up for military service when he was 21.
The army corporal took part in some of the 2nd New Zealand Division’s most famous battles, including El Alamein in Egypt, and Cassino in Italy.
He returned to Invercargill in 1946 and joined his father’s menswear business.
Alex and wife Elma, who died in ‘95, spent their first holiday after the war at the Queenstown camping ground at Lakeview, and came back every Christmas and Easter.
They later retired to Kelvin Heights in ‘80.
With the help of a carer and district nurses, Alex lived independently in his Frankton unit till almost the end — he even played golf three times a week until last year.
He’ll remain an ‘‘inspiration’’ to his family about how to live life, Peter says.
‘‘He never wanted for anything — he was so grateful and never moaned about anything.’’