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Henry John Lane, 97, died peacefully at home with his wife and son at his bedside, Thursday, May 23, 2013, in Waitsfield, VT. Henry (called Harry) was born March 20, 1916, in Akaroa, New Zealand, a town established by French settlers in 1840. He was the son of William James and Amy Gertrude (Wotton) Lane. Harry lost his mother in 1919, and he and his three brothers were raised by his stepmother, Ethel (Davis), who married his father in 1920. This marriage produced two more stepbrothers and a stepsister.
The family moved many times during Harry’s childhood but eventually settled in Wellington. At the age of 15, Harry’s education was interrupted by the Depression and he left school seeking work, first in a shipyard passing “red hot rivets” and later at Bond’s Hosiery Mills. He joined a rifle club where he became an expert shot winning many competitions. But bored with all this and having saved 10 pounds, at age 19, he joined his older brother, Stan, in Australia on Urisino Station as a cowhand (cowboy). For the next three years he lived in the saddle, slept on the ground and saw a bit of Australia’s “outback.”
In 1939 with a war looming, he returned to New Zealand again working at Bond’s doing shift work and learning ballroom dancing evenings. However, instead of being able to “join up” his job was classified as “essential” and not until 1943 was he released to joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force. He received his wings and a commission in 1944 but was appointed an instructor, and not until August 1944 was he assigned to 5 Squadron flying Catalina Flying Boats (PBY5) with a crew of nine. The PBY5 was not constructed with wheels so they had to make water landings – not easy on the ocean. His logbooks show flights to Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides), Fiji, New Caledonia, Australia, Kiribati (Gilbert Island), Tonga, Tarawa and around New Zealand. Lord and Lady Mountbatten were among the passengers he transported following the end of the war. On December 16, 1946, after 500 hours of flying Harry officially became a civilian.
Once again at Bonds, he was sent to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to learn erecting and setting up knitting Reading R100 fully fashioned machines. The war destroyed all the factories in Germany and there were not enough qualified technicians in the U.S. to send out to other countries purchasing these huge machines. A year later he returned to Bonds and as the machines arrived he spent months re-assembling thousands of parts, any one of which if misfit could have destroyed the huge machine. A valued technician, he was assured of a job in this capacity for the rest of his life, but Harry wanted more than dirty hands and decided to start his own company applying for an import license for one knitting machine. He chose Levin as the site of Lanes Hosiery Mills and started building with the help of his brother, himself and several local men.
The first 40-foot-long machine was installed in February 1953 and by April he was selling his first full fashion stockings. The mill ran 24 hours a day 6 days of the week and if anything broke down day or night Harry fixed it. His pioneer company became the town’s biggest industrial employer with 200 workers and occupied 50,000 square feet. Lane’s followed the fashion trend knitting socks, seamless hosiery, pantyhose and diversified into knitted garments, and fabric including car upholstery in the fully vertical manufacturing plant. Over the years many members of the family worked for him including his son. Upon retirement Harry moved to Lake Taupo where he built a house overlooking the lake with three active snow-capped volcanoes in the distance.
Harry was passionate about golf and was president of Levin Golf Club, a member of Taupo Golf Club and Northfield Golf Club. He was a justice of the peace for 37 years, a past president of Levin Rotary, executive member of the Levin Chamber of Commerce, Probus, Retired Servicemen’s Association, Brevet Club (former officers in the Royal New Zealand Air Force) and a member of the Roman Catholic Communities of Levin, Taupo and Waitsfield.
Harry married Ida Jean Young in Wellington in 1941 and on Anzac Day, April 25, 1945, Richard (Rick) their only son was born. Following Jean’s death, Harry married Marise Johnson of Waitsfield, VT, in 1992. Until two years ago when Harry started experiencing health problems, they spent summer in Waitsfield and a second summer in the Southern Hemisphere in Taupo, New Zealand.
He is survived by his wife, Marise, and son, Rick, and his wife Jacquelyn; grandsons Isaac and wife Liz, and Reuben and partner Karyn; great-grandchildren Rata, Tui, Reuben and Summer; and older brother, Bill, who just celebrated his 100th birthday, and wife, Kath. All his siblings, Stanley, Jack, Kelvin, Vincent and Patricia, predeceased him.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated from Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Waitsfield on Wednesday, May 29,, 2013, at 10 a.m. A reception followed in the church parish hall. Following cremation some of Harry’s ashes will be returned to New Zealand by his son, Rick, and some retained by his widow, Marise.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice Inc., 600 Granger Road, Barre, Vermont 05641 (www.cvhhh.org.). Marise and Rick express the deepest gratitude to the many members of CVHHH for the care and compassion shown to Harry during his difficult illness. Without these wonderful people we would not have been able keep Harry at home and comfortable. Assisting the family is the Perkins-Parker Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Waterbury. To send online condolences please visit www.perkinsparker.com and Facebook.