A stalwart of the Warkworth community, Phil Copestake, died last month at the age of 94. About 200 people attended his farewell at the Warkworth Golf Club on November 29.
Phil’s parents, George and Isabelle, bought a farm on Pulham Road in the early 1920s. George had emigrated from England in 1910, while Isabelle was born in Matakana in 1900. Phil was born in 1922, the second eldest in a family of six boys and one girl.
He went to Warkworth School and Warkworth District High School (now Mahurangi College), but started working as a ‘message boy’ for the Warkworth Post Office when he was 15. He soon joined the Territorial Army, giving his age as 19 when he was only 15. He trained in Devonport and later at Hikurangi before being transferred to Canada where he trained for the air force. He went on to the UK, where he trained as a bombardier. Fortunately, the war ended before he went into combat and he returned to New Zealand.
Looking for work back in Warkworth, he went back to the Warkworth Post Office, where he was told by his boss, ‘Phil, you have been absent without leave for four years – so get back to your counter!’ He worked at the post office for the next 35 years.
He met his wife, June, at the post office, where she was working as a toll operator. They were married in 1952 and had three children – Bruce, Susie and Julie.
Outside of work, Phil was a charter member of the Warkworth Lions, a life member of the former Warkworth Rugby Club and was one of the longest serving members of the Warkworth RSA, attending the Annual General Meeting of the Warkworth District Sub-Committee of the Rodney RSA on April 25, 1946. He was also a keen fisherman and patron of the Warkworth Golf Club.
The family lived on Pulham Road, beside the family farm, until 1994 when Phil and June moved to Hexham Street.
When June passed away in 2013, Phil moved into Summerset Falls Retirement Village.
His daughter Julie Beaumont says he will be remembered as a humble man with a dry sense of humour who was dedicated to his family.
Phil is survived by his three children, grandchildren Rebecca, Shannon and Billy, and great-grandchild Isobelle.