Obituary by Dorothy Preece.
The memorial event for ‘Arnie’ Leigh was held at the Mercury Bay Club on Wednesday, 23 August. Mr Leigh passed away at his home on Thursday 17 August, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He earned the respect of all who knew him, as a man who simply refused to give in to his illness. Arnie was attending meetings two days before he died.
Born in Liverpool, England in 1931, Arnie trained as an electrical engineer. Cycling was his passion and until very recently the bike was Arnie’s favoured transport. He took the K2 Challenge round the Peninsula in 2013.
Arnie first met the (eventual) love of his life at a party in the mid-60’s, when Vivienne, a Kiwi girl from Norsewood, was nursing in London. The romance took ten years to blossom.
Arnie came to New Zealand in 1972 as a ‘ten-pound Pom’ to work on the Benmore Dam Project. He took a trip to Norsewood and asked at the pub about a girl named Vivienne Thompson, and then introduced himself to Vivienne’s parents. Viv was working in Auckland, where Arnie “just turned up on the doorstep, and kept coming back.”
They married in Norsewood in 1974. The newlyweds bought a house in Avondale, where they lived until moving to Whitianga in 2003. With Joanne added, they were a family of three. Arnie and Viv both worked part-time to share the parenting, Viv, a Plunket Nurse, and Arnie taking on various jobs in the electrical field.
Arnie loved sailing. He purchased the 28-foot Harmony (the second love of his life) and learned to sail her with the help of sailing mates. He joined the Royal Akarana Yacht Squadron and enjoyed racing with the club. Family holidays were always spent exploring the Hauraki Gulf and beyond.
The decision to move to Whitianga was largely influenced by the safe moorings and easy access to the Mercuries and Great Barrier Island. Arnie joined the Mercury Bay Boating Club and racing with the smallest boat in the fleet, as well as helping with club activities, became a big part of his life. Arnie often sailed solo, but he also crewed on other boats and as crew, he undertook several trips to the Pacific.
In 2012, Arnie and Vivienne circumnavigated around New X=Zealand aboard his beloved Harmony. The boat was sold a couple of years ago. Arnie owned her for 50 years.
Arnie and Vivienne have both held office at the Probus Club and Arnie was a faithful member of the Tai Chi group, the Historical Society and the Menz Shed. At the memorial event, tributes from all of these groups expressed their admiration, not just of Arnie’s courage and determination through his illness, but of his constant good humour, and sincere appreciation of his most valued friendship.
Mr Leigh leaves his wife Vivienne, daughter Joanne and grandchildren, Reuben and Pheobe.
Caption: Arnie at the tiller of Harmony.