Helensville lost one of its favourite people when Don Armstrong, known affectionately to many as Noddy, was felled by a heart attack on July 13. The strength of his popularity in the community was seen by the large number of people who turned out to his funeral, where some time before it began there was standing room only in Saint Andrews Church and the closest park was a kilometre away. As one of the speakers at the funeral commented, “Don would say, ‘Struth, look at all the cars. There must be a party.’”
Don was born in Whangarei in 1946, moving with his family to a farm on Rautawhiri Rd, Helensville when he was five. While he was well-travelled, Don lived the rest of his life in Helensville. He and Enid married in 1972 and bought a home in Rata Street where they raised their two children, Vicki and David.
He was a very practical man and loved being outdoors. At 15 he joined Ernie Smith’s bush crew, moving eventually to a job at Ernie’s post yard, Oikumene Forest, a position he held until his death, and became highly regarded as one of the yard’s foundation stones. People would visit him there, not just because there was nothing he didn’t know about the best way to get your building job done, but also because they loved his yarns – he was a great raconteur and always had time to share a laugh. He loved pranks and his friends and co-workers often found themselves on the receiving end of one of Don’s practical jokes.
Along with his love of his family and his dogs Don had many interests. He loved his fishing and his garden and was a keen and productive member of the River Valley Home Brew and Country and Western clubs. He was a founding member of Rodney Beekeepers, his deep interest in bees and their vital role as pollinators sparked in childhood by his father’s beekeeping. Don’s good mate Noel Smith, who also worked at Oikumene, became interested in bees through their friendship and the pair spent many hours caring for several hives in the Helensville district. Asked once in an interview “What do you get out of keeping bees?” Don’s reply was typical of the man - “Lots of stings, lots of laughs.”
Don and Noel also worked together on designing, building and manning a series of ingenious floats in the annual Helensville Christmas Parade, making a major contribution to Oikoumene Forest Ltd by winning first prizein the competition for Best Float many times.
There was much talk at the funeral of Don’s love of a brew, his love of food and his efforts to persuade others to share in the spoils of his pig bucket, food past its use-by that Don scrounged for his pig, siphoning off the choicest items for himself and anyone willing to join him, insisting “It’s good tucker!”
It was also clear that Don was an inspiration, a spirited, warm and sensitive man who loved to share and who always put others first. His big personality will not be forgotten. As Don’s sister Pat commented “We could do with more people like my brother.”
Don is survived by his wife Enid, his children Vicki and David and his grandchildren Lilee, John, Elizabeth, Lily and Madison.