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Three Decades On And Still Loving Life At OCE

It’s been almost 30 years since Harry and Val Prangnell moved into Ōmokoroa Country Estate and they’re now our longest residents, having lived here for more than a third of their lives.

A lot has certainly changed since 1993 when the original citrus orchard was still visible and cows grazed across the road from their home at #68. There were less than 100 residents living at OCE back then but Harry says the welcoming, friendly and relaxed atmosphere remains today.

“We arrived from the UK in November 1992 and drove out to Ōmokoroa one day to look at the boat club because I was interested in joining,” he explains. “We saw the village and thought we’d have a nosey around.”

Harry was a three time national sailing champion back in the UK and has always had a passion for boats. Ōmokoroa’s beautiful harbour was an instant drawcard and the large garage at #68 (which was the original farmhouse on site) has allowed him to tinker and build various sailing dinghies over the years.

The pair met at a dance hall in 1955 when Harry was working as an Engine Technician for the Royal Air Force. His 12 year stint with the RAF took them all over the UK, including a two year posting to Malaya where the first of their four sons was born. “I worked on all sorts of aircraft – fixed wing, jets and helicopters. At one time I was posted to the Flying Tigers’ supersonic jet squadron which was the official RAF display team.”

Val initially worked for British Rail as a shorthand/typist based at St Pancras station in London. In Malaya she was secretary to the Station Manager of Malayan Airways in Kuala Lumpur, and on returning to England she worked with children in an Infant School, making sure they were safe and happy.

The whole family sailed boats most weekends, often loading one dinghy onto the roof of their car and towing another one behind them. And the couple moved frequently during Harry’s subsequent career as a development engineer and aircraft quality assurance civil servant.

By the time they were ready to retire, several of their sons were already living in New Zealand along with Harry’s mother, so they hopped on a plane and never looked back.

The Prangnells owned a campervan for many years and spent several months at a time travelling around New Zealand and returning to OCE when it suited them. They say being able to go on holiday knowing the gardens would be maintained and their home was secure has been a real blessing.

In the early days they were instrumental in organising group trips for OCE residents and Harry was one of the original minivan drivers. “We’ve been up to the Bay of Islands and once we took a group down to the South Island for two weeks, towing a trailer with all our luggage,” Harry recalls. “I still drive the van now at least once a month into the Citizens Club in town for dinner.”

Val spent several years editing the village’s previous magazine, The Echo, and still enjoys playing Rummikub and Housie. “I also go to the friendship club at the Church on Fridays, read lots of books and like to do adult colouring in books.”

Harry can be found playing snooker several times a week, and the pair are as happy in their home as they’ve ever been.

“We’re both 87 now and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed living at OCE all these years,” Harry says. “If we’d stayed living in the community we wouldn’t have done nearly as much travel or activities as we have. And we’ve made some wonderful life-long friendships along the way.”

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