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In memoriam Walter Hadlee (1915-2006)

By Rev Fred Baker

In the tributes that flowed following the death of Walter Hadlee, his contribution to cricket as a player and later as an administrator featured highly and rightly so.

Walter first represented New Zealand on the tour of England in 1937, and after the interruption caused by World War II he was captain of the New Zealand team from 1946 to 1949. He retired from first class cricket in 1952. In the years that followed he became a selector, team manager, chairman of New Zealand Cricket and later president. In 1983 he was made a life member of New Zealand Cricket.

Speaking at the memorial service in the Christchurch Boys’ High School Assembly Hall the president of New Zealand Cricket, Don Neely, said that in his opinion only Sir Gubby Allan of England and Sir Donald Bradman of Australia came near to Walter Hadlee in their contribution to cricket as players and administrators.

One thing that all tributes to Walter had in common, whether they were about his sporting, business or other activities, and that was their reference to him as a gentleman, a man of great ability yet a man of great humility with a concern for people and a deep personal faith.

The media has fully catalogued his national and sporting contributions so let us come down to the local church level. On the Sunday after his death the congregation of St. John’s Methodist Church at Fendalton shared their memories of Walter, a much loved and respected member of that congregation.

Those who spoke said it was a privilege to have been associated with Walter, Lilla and the Hadlee family through the church. Walter’s interest in people and their families was appreciated as was his loving concern for fellow Church members. As one member put it, he had time to listen with open ears and empathy and then to give well thought out support and advice. He truly had a pastor’s heart.

Many spoke of the way Walter had helped them personally. He was ready to share in any task needing to be done and last February when a newly formed youth group at the Church wanted help with a letter box drop in the area, Walter volunteered. You don’t find many 90 years olds involved in such a way.

Walter was for many years a trustee of St. John’s and at the time of his death was still a member of the parish property committee. People also thanked Lilla for her support of Walter and her willingness to share him with others. As well as his service to the local Church he also shared his gifts with the wider Methodist Church as a member of the Supernumerary Fund Board for over 25 years.

Walter was always prepared to share his faith and in his way he was an evangelist as well as pastor. In 2001 he spoke at an important cricket function in Brisbane and as part of his speech shared a testimony of his faith. He put 50 copies of this statement on a table inviting people to take one if they were interested. Afterwards there were two left.

St John’s, the Christchurch North Methodist parish and the Church as a whole have lost a faithful servant. He will be greatly missed, and we would echo the words of his long time friend Iain Gallaway, ‘Rest in peace, old friend, and rise in glory.’