Rev Grevis Goetz may have turned 100 last week but his mind remains as sharp as a tack and his interest in life is undiminished.
The Summerset Falls Retirement Village resident says he’s an avid reader of newspapers and magazines, and delights in talking about current affairs and discussing what he’s just read in the paper.
He also gets out and about a lot with his three daughters and gets together with friends for a lunch date at the Warkworth RSA every Friday.
Although at an age when most people’s memory has long since faded, Rev Goetz has no difficulty recalling the key events of his life, including service in a secret radar unit during World War II, receiving the OBE and entering the Anglican priesthood.
Even so, he’s still puzzled at reaching a century.
“I’m surprised I have got this far. One never anticipates one is likely to live as long as this,” he says.
After attending New Plymouth Boys High School, Rev Goetz worked briefly as a reporter for the Fielding Star.
But in 1938, as the world hurtled towards war, the young Grevis volunteered to go to England to train as a pilot with the RAF. He started by learning to fly biplanes.
Unfortunately, as he neared the end of his training he began to suffer recurring migraines and the RAF ruled him unfit to fly.
Disappointed, Grevis returned to New Zealand where he joined the RNZAF. It was there he learned to operate a Ground Control Interception Radar, which was ground-breaking technology at the time.
Grevis was posted to Bougainville as a night fighter controller. His job was to use his radar to track hostile Japanese aircraft and direct American pilots of the US Marine Corps to shoot them down.
“We had quite a number of successes,” he says.
After the war, Grevis was given a permanent commission in the RNZAF and was assigned the laborious task of updating the “King’s Regulations,” a code of conduct for servicemen and women that was bequeathed to the New Zealand Army and Air Force by their British counterparts.
Grevis discovered the regulations were hopelessly out-of-date. One specified that an enlisted man was entitled to urinate in public, provided he did so down the left foreleg of his horse.
“That was one of the orders that we decided we did not need,” he says.
The mammoth task took four years and Grevis was awarded an OBE in 1951 for his diligence.
He reached the rank of Squadron Leader in the RNZAF, but in 1958 felt called to the Anglican priesthood.
“All I can say is, God chooses some unlikely people,” he laughs.
Rev Goetz served in the church in various capacities for nearly 30 years until he finally retired in 1986.
He says his happiest years were spent as Vicar of St Andrew’s, Epsom, where he served for 14 years.
Following retirement, Rev Goetz and his wife Sadie found Auckland’s high rates and traffic intolerable and moved first to Point Wells and later to Warkworth.
After the death of Sadie, Rev Goetz continued to live on his own for eight years, until he reached 99.
It was only after he fell and broke his hip that he decided he really ought to move into a retirement home.
Rev Goetz says nothing surpasses a firm belief in God, saying it affects the way one behaves and one’s attitudes to other people.
His favourite biblical text comes from the book of Romans: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection …”