Teacher and veteran still on the go at 90

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Sixty-four years on from the end of the Korean War, Gore veteran Walter Gee is celebrating his 90th birthday.

Mr Gee was born in the town in 1927 and attended Gore High School.

Afterwards, he attended teachers training college in Dunedin.

“I was training to become a primary school teacher,” Mr Gee said.

In his time at training college, Mr Gee said he began playing snooker, which he still does.

“In those days, billiard rooms were something your mother told you to keep out of.”

After his theoretical training had finished, Mr Gee returned to Gore.

“I did my practical training at Gore Main School .. I then went to a sole-charge school in Orinoco Valley where there were about 17 kids,” he said.

While in Orinoco Valley, he got a handpiece and began shearing when he was not teaching.

“It was then I found out that a week shearing was worth a month teaching.

“I had only been there for a bit over a year when I signed up to help the United Nations in the Korean War. I joined the army on the 29th of August, 1950. I was 23 years old.”

Mr Gee said he remembered a trainload of soldiers going to Burnham military camp in Christchurch.

“We then left for Korea in December. I remember we were in Manila on Boxing Day.”

While on the ship, Mr Gee picked up boxing.

“There was not really much else to do,” he said. “I only ever got in the ring twice and each time I came second.”

Mr Gee said he was in Korea for about a year and returned home after the battle of Kapyong for a period of time to attend a soldiers’ training course.

“While I was there a lot of the guys I was with did not receive any letters. The kids from the sole-charge school sent me letters while I was there. I’d pass them round to everyone to make them feel more at home.”

Mr Gee finished his service in May 1953.

When he arrived home, he married his wife, Jessie, a “shy country girl” he met while shearing.

“I got a 52-day rail pass, which I used mostly for my honeymoon.

“Then I applied for about four or five jobs. I got one in a small town called Kaitawa. It was a real delight.”

Mr Gee stayed there for about three years then returned to Gore, where he had a house built in Milford St.

“It was

He returned to teaching at Gore Main School, teaching form 1 (year 7) pupils, and in 1972 started at the newly opened Longford Intermediate School.

“I retired at 58. Marie and Neil Pollard offered me a job at the golf course mowing the lawns.”

Mr Gee said he enjoyed being greensman and the only mistake he made was making a hole on a slight hill one day.

In his retirement, he grew trees on a plot he had near the Pomahaka River. He was also in charge of recruitment to harvest cocksfoot every January for 18 years, he said.

For his recent birthday celebration, Mr Gee received an image of himself and his daughter stooking the cocksfoot.

He said to this day, he did not let his age stop him. He played snooker weekly all year round and walked his dog, Mitch, daily.

“I do a vege garden in the summer. Last year I grew sunflowers too.

“I also try to keep active. I follow the principle of ‘use it or lose it’.”