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All Rights Reserved 10 August 2015
REGINALD ALFRED FRANDI 1919 – 1975: They Built Them Tough In Those Days.
Before he fought in the Second World War, my maternal uncle Reginald (Reg) Frandi trained as a fitter and turner at Cable Price. However, he returned from the war with very serious injuries and had to stay in Wellington hospital for quite some time, after which he was transferred to Rotorua for a long period of rehabilitation. He was advised to work out in the open air as he had spent three to four years in the desert during the war which left him with long term adverse effects on his lungs and stomach.
When he had regained his health and strength, Reg decided he wanted to become a farm cadet and was subsequently placed on a farm which was situated about 30 miles from Gisborne. It was on this farm that he eventually met his future wife, Dawn Marguarite Kelly. They were married on 20 June 1945 after dating for only three months. Subsequently they found work at Tawhareparae, about one and a half hour’s drive from Gisborne. After working there for a short time, they moved to Whatatutu, roughly two hours drive from Gisborne. At that time, the roads were all unsealed so they had to have a safe, reliable car.
Reg really enjoyed farming and eventually he was sent to Wanganui River to work for the Maori Affairs Department. This was a great challenge for him because he had to clear and break in the allocated land, to make it suitable for sustainable farming. There was no reticulated hot water, so it had to be heated on a wood stove. He was a good rugby player and was adopted by local Maori as one of their own. In fact his whole family was very highly respected in the area. After about ten years, Reg and Dawn decided to move with their children back to Gisborne to live where Reg had a complete change of employment.
Friends of the couple had opened up a quarry in Patutahi and Reg agreed to work for them. He was a very clever and able man who could turn his hand to anything and according to his daughter, Michelle, he was busy almost daily fixing and repairing this or that. During his years working at the quarry he was to prove to his family time and again just how strong he was in dealing with severe pain. He suffered many injuries such as being crushed by rocks, breaking his jaw and eye socket and even losing some teeth! When he lost fingers in a crusher, he went home to Dawn and asked her to bandage his hand. On another occasion when he suffered severe injuries, he was admitted to hospital for four days and hated every minute of it.
Michelle relates the story about the time her father complained that he couldn’t get his boot off. They took him to the doctor and it transpired that his foot was broken and had to be encased in plaster; he had been walking around on it for three weeks! Reg then insisted on being fitted for a walking boot so he could get back to work! It’s reminiscent to me of Colin ‘Pinetree’ Meads who played a rugby test match for the All Blacks with a broken arm! They certainly built them tough in those days on the North Island of New Zealand.
Reg and Dawn built a house down the road from the quarry where Reg established a huge vegetable garden with “every vegetable you can imagine” thriving there. Michelle recalls that they all had to help in the planting of potatoes and then when they were ready, help to dig and pick them up. She says that as children they weren’t too happy about it, but upon reflection, they were good times for the family.
Apparently Reg was a great reader who once a month drove the whole family into town to visit the library, and afterwards out to dinner. He would take out five to ten books and read them all within a matter of days. He insisted that everyone choose books to take home because he wanted them to learn as much as he had from books. Reg didn’t earn much money, so they couldn’t afford to buy furniture. Instead, “he spent hours building little things for us, as well as tables, chairs, and beds.”
During summer months he would ask Dawn to pack a picnic dinner to take to the beach so that the family could all go surf casting; all had their own lines. They would stay until it got too dark to see. Relatives had a holiday house at Ohope Beach, something like three hour’s drive north of Gisborne, where they often holidayed, sometimes for up to four weeks. Reg absolutely loved it there, and spent the time pottering about, fishing and reading. Reg and Dawn had a very happy and fulfilled marriage, which was sadly cut short when Reg was killed in a quarry accident.
Michelle wrote in her letter that family was very important to her dad, and it was what had made their lives so special:
He was a wonderful father, always had time for his family, and showed a deep sense of pride in all of us. This seemed strange to me as he had very little contact with his extended family, but I guess he had his reasons. Dad didn’t like lies and he didn’t expect anyone else to lie. He didn’t suffer fools; if he didn’t like someone or something, he would tell you. My father didn’t drink much alcohol, and if he went out with mates, he always came home sober. He had a sweet tooth, loved chocolate, and when mum stewed fruit for dessert, he always added a lot more sugar.
Reg helped to build St George’s Anglican church in Patutahi, but tragically he died before he could see it completed. His love of working at the Patutahi Quarry cost him his life. He was crushed to death when a tractor rolled on him.
Dad had the biggest hands; hands of a man who had had to work hard for everything in his life. Though a gentle man in many ways, he did lose his temper occasionally, but he got over it quickly, almost as soon as he had lost it. He taught us children so many great values in life, which in turn has helped us immensely to deal with whatever life might bring. We never wanted for anything when we were growing up. We weren’t spoilt, and learned from dad that nothing in life is free.
Michelle goes on to tell me that it would have broken Reg’s heart if he’d lived to witness the deaths, so early in their lives, of two of his daughters, Marguarite at 51 years and Katrina at 45years. Both Marguarite and Katrina died from cancer. Dawn lived on for another 30 years after Reg died, and never re-married. They had one son, Kelly.
Information contained in this Short Life Story was contributed by Reg Frandi’s youngest daughter Michelle Elizabeth Downie, in a letter she wrote to her cousin Anne Frandi-Coory in July 2005. Images: Parkhill Collection.