Community bids farewell to ‘Banjo Bill’

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Well-known Oamaru identity Bill Patterson passed away in Christchurch last Thursday. He was 90.

His son Robin said Mr Patterson was known as ‘Banjo Bill’ around the district for his banjo and banjo-mandolin playing.

When he moved to live in Christchurch last year, Mr Patterson said he learned to play the banjo as a teenager and became a long-time member of the Savage Club in Oamaru.

“I am still an active member and recently we played a concert at Anthony Wilding (retirement village) which was great fun,” Mr Patterson said.

Mr Patterson was born in Oamaru in 1923 and became a carpenter and joiner, working for Craig and Company Ltd.

In 1941 he joined the army, enlisting with the Otago Mounted Rifles as a trooper, but because he was so young, he had to wait until 1944 to be posted overseas.

He served as a signaller with an artillery unit seeing action on the front line in Italy. When hostilities ended in Europe, Mr Patterson was posted to Japan for several months as part of the 1st Occupation Force.

Back in Oamaru, in 1946 he met Doreen whom he married later that year. Mrs Patterson predeceased him two and a half years ago.

Mr Patterson formed his own company, Burncraft Joinery and Building, and worked on many projects including designing and building the Omarama Motor Lodge and constructing the Sandringham St IHC Centre in Oamaru.

In 1985 he was made a life member of the Otago Master Builders’ Association and retired the next year.

Mr Patterson took an active role in the Oamaru community, serving on the North Otago IHC executive for 22 years and being president three times. He belonged to the Lodge of Waitaki since 1960 and was president of the annual Masonic Charitable Golf Tournament. He was also an active member of the North Otago RSA and assisted in running the Scott’s Own Sea Scouts. In 2003 he received a citizens’ award for his contribution to the community.

Mr Patterson’s funeral was held at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church yesterday. Besides his wife Doreen, Mr Patterson was predeceased by two sons, Bill and Len. He is survived by son Robin, six granddaughters and 12 great grandchildren.

By CHRIS TOBIN