Champion volunteer Tony Mayes has always been prepared to put his hand up to help others. But serious illness means his volunteering days are over. Picture: Bruce Morris. Picture below shows Tony and wife Pam, and also with daughter Chelsey (and bridesmaid sister Trinity) and her husband Nick Bishop on their wedding day at Alberton in 2010.
Tony Mayes is a guy who puts his hand up when others keep their heads down. He’s one of a small band of volunteers who keep things ticking over at sports clubs, special interest groups and community organisations. Without them, our community would be bereft.
Tony was a long-time executive member of MARA, a community activist leading the way in a range of battles – from liquor store proliferation and housing issues to the planned expansion of St Luke’s mall. Then, furious at the impact of taggers, he set up the local wing of Community Patrols – all the time maintaining his strong interest in the Mt Albert Historical Society.
Volunteering has been in his blood since his children were youngsters and, among other things, he’s led (as a Dad) committees committed to such passions as the trampoline and the accordion… all because he wanted to help. And if he didn’t do it, who else would?
Tony now battles cancer and has had to put aside his volunteer work. But his heart will always be in the business of helping others.
So how did you get to Mt. Albert?
We bought our first house in Lynfield, then, seven years later, we sold it so we could go overseas (on our big OE for six months). We bought in Mt. Albert (37 years ago) before going away. That house was on Mt Albert Road, opposite the then-DSIR. However, as the family grew to five children we needed more rooms. We now live in a 1922 original farmhouse.
Tell us about your childhood?
I grew up in the outbacks of Torbay on the shore. We had 30 acres of mainly native bush and scrub. On an unsealed metal road, or clay in the winter, with one mile to walk to catch the bus to school – or anywhere. We had a cow for milk, chooks and ducks and big veggie gardens, so we were totally self-sufficient. Life was simple but good. Correspondence school at home until I was six and I then did two years at college. I was keen to start an apprenticeship and if I stayed at school for another year I would get six months off my apprenticeship, but I thought that would be a waste!
Your first job?
My first job was working for a car wrecker in Albany dismantling cars. He was a hard boss, known as Ned Neville. I bought a car from a person who left it at the yard overnight before bringing it to me next day. Part of the deal was a lovely travel rug, which disappeared overnight! After that job I started my apprenticeship as an automotive electrical engineer.
The most uplifting moment of your life?
I don’t know that I can identify the most uplifting moment of my life – there have been a few apart from marrying Pam 43 years ago. Maybe when we were told that the cancer was in remission.
The saddest moment would have to be when I was told, earlier this year, I had terminal cancer. Not only that but they told me in open ward so everyone heard and saw. It was devastating stuff and changed my view of life… life is precious so don’t put off doing anything – do it now. It turned the whole family upside down. People/friends react differently, some becoming closer while others distance themselves.
Things you’ve learnt about life that you will take to your grave?
I have learnt that life on earth can be fragile, so don’t pass up opportunities..
What made you very proud?
Watching family grow and achieve their own goals and milestones, and our granddaughter overcome a bad start in life to become a happy, normal little soul. Born with laryngomalacia [congenital softening of the tissues of the larynx], she was tube-fed until she was one-year-old. It was a stressful time for all concerned.
What makes you damned angry?
People who lie and get away with it.
What could you not do without?
My wife Pam, who I met 44 years ago, and we were married eight months later. We met at a party, and on our first date I took her to the Auckland Car Club among my car-racing mates. Then I took her to a motor race meeting – the last time she ever went to watch race cars! Actually it is claimed that I traded in my race car for my wife! (I never did work out which one was more expensive!).
The thing you always wanted to crack but haven’t yet managed?
That thing is trying to get satisfactory answers from Auckland Transport regarding roading and footpaths.
Who are the people (past and present) you most look up to?
Anyone who willingly volunteers their time to make life easier for others. Such as community patrollers.
What personal frailty (in others) do you most detest?
Taggers who have no respect for other peoples’ property.
What about yourself – do you have flaws you wish weren’t part of your makeup?
I guess I inherited my stubbornness from my grandfather .
We all have regrets – what are yours?
I don’t tend to waste my time with regrets – I regard it as negative thoughts.
Describe your perfect weekend?
That would be at a track somewhere watching motor racing.
And the dream holiday if money was no object?
We had our dream holiday in Europe 37 years ago. We sold our nice house and bought down to finance our trip to Europe and Britain. Covering 12,000 miles in six months, we went up through the mountains of Norway (and down to the fiords). Spectacular viewing. Down thorough Italy to Pompei and the Amalfi Coast (where we missed the big earthquake in 1980 by one day). We criss-crossed Europe and then to England, also through Wales and Scotland. We were over there when Charlie and Diana got engaged.
What about that magic dinner party – who would share your table, and what would be on the menu?
Family… and lamb shanks. I just can’t get enough lamb shanks!
And the music in the background?
Peter Posa, playing White Rabbit. I’ve always loved steel guitar, right from my teenage guitar years, and Peter Posa would be the best in my book.
What about books and writers – what will stay in your mind until your dying day?
Don Winslow – he wrote Californian Fire and Life and started me on fiction/mystery/thriller books when I was immobilised with a broken foot.
Your favourite movies – watch much television?
Probably the Bourne series. TV? I like watching discovery documentaries, and the light-hearted 800 Words drama series on now.
What are your biggest concerns (locally and elsewhere)?
That this country doesn’t ever depart from its roots – the masters of No 8 wire technology.
What do you particularly like about Mt. Albert….and/or hate?
I hated the graffiti that seemed to be covering Mt Albert back then, and I did something about it. I developed a relationship with the council and the contractors that removed it. I cycled around the area photographing and reporting it. I even saw some taggers one day, followed them home and photographed them and their letter boxes, then gave their addresses to their school for identification. I liked the way Mt Albert embraced what I was doing – and helped. Slowly but surely we won and I’m pleased to say the graffiti these days is nothing like it was back then, 10 to 15 years ago.
Not all taggers are local. One prolific tagger back then came all the way from Pakuranga, parked his car and went tagging. Unfortunately for him he was seen tagging Anne Duncan’s offices and then running back to his car. Those days you could get the vehicle owner from the Post Office – got him! Diligence pays off! In the earlier days of MARA we had a big paint out of graffiti down Ballast Lane. With my broken foot then I was the photographer.
If money was no object, what would you spend it on to make Mt Albert a better place?
I have done just that – I set up Mt Albert Community Patrol to make it a “better, safer place”. Money was no object, everything was sponsored from the business community. That was great, working in the community with like-minded people. I hope that legacy lives on.