42 years ago today my Grandad died. His name was Joseph Augustine Maroon Joseph (Joe Joseph) - kind of a cool name. He was 56 years old. Joe was my Dad's father. I am Joe's oldest grandchild. My Mum was pregnant with me when he died but hadn't realised. So he never knew his grandchildren.
Joe was Lebanese. That makes me one quarter Lebanese. Joe moved to New Zealand as a child with his parents seeking a better life from the one they knew in Lebanon. When they settled in New Zealand his English was better than his parents so as an eight year old his filled in all their immigration papers. They spoke Arabic. He ate olives and middle eastern sweet meats. He was a foodie when they didn't even know what a foodie was. But he embraced life in New Zealand and became Kiwi to the extent that my father and his siblings only ever learnt a few swear words in Arabic (the only phrase I know how to say is "You have the brains of a donkey!" A huge insult in Arabic).
Joe was incredibly bright - he loved the law and politics. He worked for the Inland Revenue Department but on the side owned a men's clothing business on Lambton Quay and was into property investment(he owned buildings in Oriental Parade amongst others) . He used to open his clothing business during his lunch break from IRD and many lawyers and politicians were carefully outfitted by 'Joe" who had impeccable taste. When my parents married it was Dad, not Mum, who was presented with the traditional trousseau - a huge wardrobe of clothing. Several years ago my Dad gave me his paisley patterned dressing gown that was one Joe had given him. It's made from viyella, a fine wool. It is still in perfect condition nearly 45 years later and I still wear it every day. When I enquired at Kirkcaldie and Stains to see if they could still source them they said they could and a new one would cost $800 (for a dressing gown!). When I started work an older woman I worked with told me stories of when she was a young law clerk and being sent to collect the boss's suits from Joe and how lovely he was to her.
One day the IRD commissioner told Joe he had to choose between his clothing business and the IRD. He chose his clothing business. After his death my uncle ran the business for a while and I remember going there as a child. It was in the Macarthy Trust building and it was a treasure trove of every clothing item a man could ever want. In the back room he kept a collection of wind up robots - all neatly kept in their original boxes. Whatever happened to them?
Joe married my Nana, Betty, a Welsh woman and she kept house while he tended to his business interests. They had attractive children. Their kids -Paul, Anthony, Adrienne and Christine (little Christopher died at birth) -were all striking looking. My Dad and uncle and aunts and cousins are all very Lebanese looking. Even my sisters have dark Lebanese-like hair. I joke that I am the Welsh throwback! Betty died a couple of years ago, aged 92 - she lived over 40 years without her beloved Joe.
Joe was a fiercly strong Catholic who did lots of good deeds around town. He was one of the few people to own a car and some Sundays he would visit the Home of Compassion orphanage and take the nuns and orphans for drives. He left groceries on the doorsteps of widows. When Mum and Dad were newly married my Mum used to do some bookwork for Joe. He would take her out for lunch and pay with a 5 pound note and then slip the change into Mum's hand saying, you take the change, dear. The 'change' was more than a week's wages for Mum and Dad.
Joe played the violin. He owned a famous stradivarious violin. When he died the family donated it to a member of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Joe died on the way home from work one night about 18 months after my parents got married. Joe and Betty lived in Karori and on his way home he took a walk and went past a paddock where he stopped to pat a horse. The horse probably reared up, no one is sure, but Joe was found dead by the paddock.
Over 1000 people attended his requiem funeral at St Mary of the Angels. There was a write-up about him in the local papers.
This is the sum total of what I know about Joe. He would be 98 is he was alive today. He was a larger than life figure. He was my Grandad. I wish I had known him.
Edited 26 October
I hear, through the grapevine, that one of my aunts has found my blog "Hi Aunty Chris!". She says I am wrong about the stradivarius. Grandad did have a good violin that was given away after he died but it wasn't a strad. Just shows you that when all you know is via word of mouth the story can be twisted. The old Chinese whisper syndrome, I guess. Bummer - the stradivarius story was a good one!