After Thomas Kiely died on March 31, aged 94, many people came forward and sent messages to his children and family telling of how “your father helped me” at a particular point in his long life.

Mr Kiely, the father of Auckland diocese Vicar General Msgr Bernard Kiely, was farewelled at a requiem Mass at a packed St Patrick’s Cathedral on April 6.

Thomas Kiely

The many tributes received by the family told of how Thomas Kiely was a gentleman who was kind, considerate, patient, greatly respected and a very special person.

Indeed, Msgr Kiely said of his father during the homily, he was a man of the beatitudes, and, in particular, he was a peacemaker.

This was shown in his long career in human resources, personnel and industrial relations with companies like Tasman Pulp and Paper, General Foods and Watties, as well as during his time as a member of the Labour Court.

“Dad in his working life . . . really had a profound sense of the good of each person,” Msgr Kiely said.

Several anecdotes from Mr Kiely’s working life were related by his son Peter and by Msgr Kiely.

“In the 1960s,” Peter Kiely said in a eulogy, “he was industrial relations manager at Tasman Pulp and Paper in Kawerau, and the family had great memories during the
great strike of 1966 [with] Dad insisting that we share school lunches with the kids of striking workers.”

Later in his career, “he would travel to Wellington for award negotiations on behalf of the Employers’ Federation, conciliation councils and meetings with the Federation of Labour on a Monday, and when he returned home and Mum [Nonie] said how did it go, he chuckled and said, we settled it today, Friday, over a glass of whiskey”.

Msgr Kiely related that his father would tell stories of difficult award negotiations at Trades Hall in Wellington and about the communists who were sitting across the table at that time.

“He had great delight in the 1980s to pick up a book of mine, he had asked if he could borrow it, it was a biography of John Paul II called ‘The People’s Pope’. He said he was sitting at this award table and they have got The Communist Manifesto and all these other documents, and Dad, who was a working class man through and through, simply put ‘The People’s Pope’ in front of him as part of his reading and he said the looks they all gave each other was simply worth
remembering.”

“Often during these long days, he would slip out as if he was going to the toilet and he would go down to St Mary of the Angels and attend midday Mass.”

He was frequently referred to as “the bishop” by Jim Knox and other trade unionists, Msgr Kiely added.

Among his many other achievements and acts of service were being the organiser of professional tennis tournaments in Auckland, being president of Auckland Tennis and afterwards a life member thereof.

His generosity with his time was noted, as was his being on many committees.

He served in leadership and service roles with the IHC, Ranfurly Care in Epsom and GIFT in Balmoral. The Special Olympics were a favourite of his.

He was made a Member of the British Empire in the 1996 New Years Honours for services to tennis and the community.

In 2002, he was honoured by St John Paul II with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award for his work supporting the
Church.

As well as supporting the cathedral, he was an active parishioner at Glen Innes, Kawerau, Epsom, and finally Remuera.

It was noted that he was a real family man and, with his late wife Nonie, raised six children. There were five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Peter Kiely told of how his father was left an orphan at age 5, after his father died in 1929 from gas wounds suffered during World War I. His mother had died a week earlier. Thomas was raised by an aunt.

Msgr Kiely told of how his father formed a bond with the Marist Brothers as a boarder at Sacred Heart College, as the brothers were father-figures for him.

The special place of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Thomas Kiely’s life was also noted.

It was his wife’s home parish and they were married there in 1950. In 1992, their son Bernard was ordained there and seven years later he became cathedral administrator (a position he held for 18 years). In 2010, the Kielys celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary with a Mass there, and in 2012, Nonie Kiely’s requiem Mass was celebrated there.

“We are 100 per cent thankful to God for the gift that this man has been to us,” Msgr Kiely said of his father.

“Above all, Dad was a man who rejoiced in the truth. He would often say to us as children — tell the truth, you can’t get caught out on the truth.”

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