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George Warburton (1920 - 2008)

George Warburton
GEORGE WARBURTON, in the late 70s, during his time as Te Awamutu Courier manager.

George Edward Warburton was born on July 24, 1920 in Te Awamutu, the only child of Arthur and Constance Warburton.

Arthur shifted to Te Awamutu from Timaru and around 1905 started a small stationary and print shop. This was sold to the Gifford family when he launched the Waipa Post in 1911, which later became Te Awamutu Courier.

George and Arthur Warburton
George Warburton with his father ‘A.G.’ Warburton at Lambton Quay in Wellington in the early 1940s.

George attended Te Awamutu schools and played rugby for Te Awamutu Old Boys. With his education behind him he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and joined the newspaper industry, serving his apprenticeship in hand typography. World War Two had started and after George had completed his apprenticeship, he signed up with the Airforce. He wanted to be a pilot, but that was ruled out by eyesight problems so he trained as a mechanical engineer. During his training George was stationed at Wigram, Christchurch where he met and married Margaret Ball in 1944. He spent the last months of the war stationed in Bougainville, north of Australia.

After the war George and Margaret returned to Te Awamutu and moved into a home in Alexandra Street (behind the present family home). A daughter, Jean was born in 1947, followed by a son, John in 1949.

When Arthur died in 1956 George was promoted to the role of manager of the Te Awamutu Courier newspaper company. He held this role until 1986 (being succeeded by his son, John) and took on the role of company secretary, which he held until 1995.

His ethic that he was on the same level as the rest of the staff was clearly evident when it came time to purchase a company car for the manager. Other company managers in similar roles in town were driving large Falcons and Holdens, but George opted for a Hillman Imp, saying the balance of the money should go towards a new printing press. This type of forward thinking saw the company develop into a major print centre in the Waikato, with 35 staff at its peak.

George was also heavily involved with the community newspapers’ industry body, the Community Newspapers Association (of New Zealand) which at one stage had over 100 member newspapers. He was involved in virtually every office for the CNA committee over his 28 years of contribution, of which he was a past president and a life member. His service to the printing industry included being a representative on the Waikato apprenticeship committee.

George also made time to serve his community and was involved with a number of major fundraising and building projects in the town, where his combination of business acumen, respect for others and quiet determination were invaluable assets. These projects included the building of Te Awamutu RSA Clubrooms, Te Awamutu YMI Gymnasium, Te Awamutu Anglican Church’s new St John’s Church and Waipa Masonic Lodge clubrooms.

As a member of the Masonic Lodge for over 50 years, George held leadership positions at various times in five different orders within the Lodge. His work for the Lodge movement was recognised in 2005 when he was awarded a diploma of Distinguished Membership from the Supreme Council of Lodges in Scotland.

A keen duck shooter and fisherman, George was heavily involved with Te Awamutu Branch of the Auckland Acclimatisation Society and was awarded honorary life membership for his services.

Margaret passed away in 1996, leaving an enormous void in George’s life after 51 happy years of marriage. He was fortunate to find companionship again when he met June van der Hilst and at 80 years of age they were married in 2000. They enjoyed five happy years together until illness saw George move into Tarahill Rest Home and latterly Matariki Hospital.

George is survived by his two children, 10 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren and by a name that will forever be synonymous with the history of the New Zealand printing industry and Te Awamutu Courier.

This obituary is reprinted by permission from the Te Awamutu Courier, 23rd September 2008 (PDF file).