A life of tireless commitment to others
Keith Alfred James Tremain QSM, JP (1928-2013)
A Hastings man devoted to helping others and serving the community died in Hawke’s Bay Hospital on October 1.
Keith Alfred James Tremain QSM, JP, aged 85, enjoyed meeting people so much that he would often sit on his front veranda and talk to those passing by.
Sometimes it was just a friendly “How are you, isn’t it a nice day?” or he would share with them his love of music and work with the Salvation Army, where he was an officer.
Even when he was ill in hospital, he would encourage other patients to keep their spirits up and always had an optimistic word for the nurses who cared for him.
Keith was born in Palmerston North on June 29, 1928, in the days when money was scarce and families had to make do.
Shortly after he moved to Foxton so his father could take up employment on the railways where the family – committed Salvationists – lived for two years.
They then returned to Palmerston North where Keith was dedicated to the city’s Salvation Army Corps.
At the age of 15, Keith took up an apprenticeship as a carpenter/builder, gaining his trade certificate a few years later.
A lover of brass bands, he started learning to play the instruments in the Salvation Army Band when he was eight and went on to train as a singer who had a distinguished tenor voice.
Music was to become a passion he enjoyed until the end of his life.
In 1951, Keith entered the Salvation Army Training College in Wellington where he graduated as an officer.
It was here he met his wife Mavis, who was studying there and who also qualified as an officer.
Keith left the ministry for a few years and became a foundation member of the New Zealand Military Brass Band where he travelled abroad with the band, which was stationed in Malaysia.
Among the highlights of his time with the band was taking part in the Edinburgh Tattoo.
The band took him back to New Zealand where he renewed his friendship with Mavis. The couple married in the Hastings Salvation Army Church on October 11, 1969.
They made Hastings their home after Keith joined the staff of the Post Office telephone department as a supervisor.
During the following years he was appointed songster leader for the Hastings Salvation Army and later became bands master, which was to be his forte.
In 1981, Keith and Mavis answered a call to missionary service in Singapore where they managed Pasa Pan Jang Children’s Home which houses 80 youngsters and 32 university students.
There they worked tirelessly ensuring the often undernourished children were fed, clothed and received basic health care.
After four and a half years’ service at the home the couple took up a post at the Lee Kwo Chan Elderly Women’s Home where they cared for 100 residents.
“His community work earned him much recognition and in 2002 he was awarded the Hastings District Council’s Community Award.”
Before leaving Singapore, Keith and Mavis were awarded a special Government Certificate of Merit for their assistance in helping rescue guests and recovering bodies from the New World Hotel, which collapsed after an inside water cylinder burst inside the hotel.
While many perished in the tragedy, Keith and Mavis cared for the survivors who were injured and traumatised.
On returning to Hastings on his retirement, Keith immersed himself in the Salvation Army Corps’ community service work, representing the army in its wills and bequests programme and becoming a life member of the RSA.
Twelve years into retirement, ill health intervened when Keith suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered. Despite the stroke, which left him partially paralysed, in his role as a JP Keith would still willingly sign legal documents or give advice for which he would seldom accept gifts of thanks.
His community work earned him much recognition and in 2002 he was awarded the Hastings District Council’s Community Award.
Four years later he was awarded the QSM for his services to music, which spanned 74 years.
At this time he was also elected president of the Hawke’s Bay Citizens’ Band. He was appointed a JP in 1999 and in 2012 received the Paul Harris Band Award for Rotary of which he was a member of 32 years – including his service in Singapore.
For 22 years Keith was a chaplain at the Hillcrest Rest Home, Havelock North, where he spent time lending a listening ear to residents and conducting weekly church services. He was also to comfort many Hawke’s Bay Hospital patients where he also served time as its chaplain.
Despite often being confined to a wheelchair, Keith was able to help other stroke sufferers through his 23 years overseeing the Hastings Stroke Club.
More than 300 people gathered at the Salvation Army Citadel in Hastings on October 4, 2013, to celebrate Keith’s life.
He is survived by his wife Mavis, to whom he was married for 44 years.
Photo caption – BIG IMPACT: Keith Alfred James Tremain’s life was celebrated at the Salvation Army Citadel in Hastings last month. PHOTO/SUPPLIED