Veterans home raises century

The original rest-home in Mornington. Photo: Otago Witness
The original rest-home in Mornington. Photo: Otago Witness
Phil Smith (standing) and Keith Blanc celebrate Montecillo Veterans Home's 100th-year anniversary. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Phil Smith (standing) and Keith Blanc celebrate Montecillo Veterans Home's 100th-year anniversary. Photo: Christine O'Connor

A century of caring for veterans will be celebrated this week as one of Dunedin's most historic rest-homes turns 100.

Montecillo Veterans Home and Hospital opened its doors to returning servicemen on June 27, 1918.

Originally built in Eglinton Rd, in Mornington, to tend to sick and wounded servicemen, Montecillo has since seen a range of residents occupy its halls.

Montecillo moved to its current Bay View Rd, St Kilda, location in August 2006.

One of Montecillo's longest-serving residents is Phil Smith.

The 95-year-old served in the army as a dental nurse in 1941, and moved to Montecillo in May 2005 on doctor's orders.

''When I first came to Montecillo, I had a broken arm,'' Mr Smith said.

''I was in the hospital for so long.

''They said, 'You can't go back [home], you'll have to go somewhere, so, they said, 'How about Montecillo?', because I knew it was a place for war veterans, and I said, 'Oh, yeah'.''

It took time for the former Aucklander to adjust to life in the veterans home, but he has come to enjoy life in Dunedin.

''I used to love walking,'' he said.

''I used to walk right around here, right round in circles every day about 8 o'clock in the morning - weather permitting. I'm quite happy with Montecillo.''

Keith Blanc (89) also moved to Montecillo in 2005.

A former Wanaka farmer, Mr Blanc never served in the military, although he was a cadet during his time at Otago Boys' High School - service enough to secure his admission into Montecillo.

''I've met some wonderful people at Montecillo in all aspects of life,'' he said.

''I've enjoyed it thoroughly from the time I've been here.

''It's a second home, you might say, for me. I've loved it, really.''

Recently retired CEO Fred Daniel (78) has had a 25-year affiliation with Montecillo.

He said Montecillo's military character helped create a sense of family.

''I found that servicemen look out for each other, to a point where we're all brothers in arms,'' Mr Daniel said.

''The wearing of the uniform is quite a distinct thing, the training and the method to get through to do your job, and then the respect you have for each other is another style of a family.

''The trust and the loyalty to each other, regardless of the colour or creed, is the distinctive point of difference.''

Official celebrations of Montecillo's 100-year existence will be held this weekend, with a Beating of Retreat ceremony at 4pm on Friday, and a cocktail function and book launch at 6pm. An afternoon tea will be held at Montecillo on Saturday.

-By Alex McLeod

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