Patti Tew could be a closet petrolhead – she always did the driving in her marriage and one of her favourite jobs was at Motor Holdings Ltd where there were some unusual – but thrilling - perks of the job.
During her nine years working as secretary to the management of Motor Holdings’ vehicle division Patti got to know rally driver Possum Bourne, even going for a spin with him in his car.
She once modelled the new Subaru jackets with him and she was even there the day Possum first turned up with his mate Snow to suss out a deal for a rally car, before he became the well-known personality he went on to be.
“These two lads came around and I said ‘hello, how are you two?’ and they asked ‘can we see your boss, we want a car!’
“Well 1.5 hours later after all the discussions were going on in there they came out and they certainly looked very pleased with themselves and that was the start with the Subaru rally car,” she says.
Patti said she once transcribed all the pace notes for Possum and another time volunteered to join him for a test drive up Ōtāhuhu Mt Richmond.
She was surprised to find the passenger seat enclosed her quite tightly and asked Possum why.
“He said ‘you will find out!’,” she laughs as she remembers a rather speedy ascent up the mountain. “It was a wee bit fast but it was an amazing adventure, just wonderful.
“I loved working there, it was a fun place and Possum was a lovely man.”
It should come as no surprise then that Patti picked Bruce McLaren Village to move into in late 2021, with the namesake of the Botany village being another star of New Zealand motor racing.
Above and below: Patti's modelling job with Possum Bourne - the pair were showing off the new Subaru sport jackets. Meeting Possum was one of several perks of her job at the time.
However, there were practical reasons too, one of them being that it was close to where she had lived with her late husband Ron since moving to Auckland in 1968.
“Also, I worked for 18 years at another retirement village and I thought it was better to live somewhere else,” she says.
“I really, really enjoyed my time working there, and having worked in a retirement village I knew exactly what village life is like.
“You’re not in each other’s pockets, you meet up with friends when you join in the many village events. The move certainly helped me pass through the grief of losing Ron. I love it here, I loved it from day 1!”
It was quite the journey that first brought Dunedin-born Patti to the eastern suburbs of Auckland.
Her parents had moved Patti and her older sister to Invercargill and, during overseas travel, she met an Italian man in Singapore who she went on to have a daughter with him.
After they split up, love struck again, this time with Ron, a father-of-three who had tragically lost his wife in childbirth.
Originally from Stoke-on-Trent in the UK, Ron was a tile slabber and the pair were married six weeks after meeting.
“We were married for 56 years. He was a lovely guy,” she says.
Patti became stepmum to his three children and they went on to have a daughter too, becoming a happy blended family with five children.
Auckland beckoned to make a fresh start, and with Patti’s sister living in Beachlands that was where they headed.
They moved around several times, with Ron also having bricklaying skills he built a couple of the houses, and Patti landed the Motor Holdings job when her youngest was three years old.
Later, they even followed her sister to Australia to try living there: “We came back after two months because I hated it!” she says.
“I had left my job at the retirement village after nine years of being there but I went back to it and went on to work there for another nine years.”
Now she’s focused on getting the most out of life having picked a fourth floor apartment at Bruce McLaren which impressed her from the start.
“When Rose showed me, it was a show unit, I was like ‘wow!’
“I love the team here, they’re all lovely, and I’ve made some great friends too.”
Being very sporty by nature – Patti represented Southland at indoor basketball for eight years and loved tennis and badminton too – she never misses the three sessions of Triple A in the village each week and often does laps around the village grounds to keep her fitness up.
And she’s still driving up a storm too, and was thrilled to recently pass her biennial driving test.
“I was very pleased about that. I do love my driving!”