by JOHN SHAW
The death occurred recently in Auckland of Tony Vela, an esteemed and much-loved member of the parish community at St Michael’s, Remuera. He was 84 years old at the time of his death.
Mr Vela was active in the music ministry in his parishes. He began as a 13-year-old organist at St John the Baptist parish, Parnell, and was a member of the cathedral choir between 1964 and 1974. From 1980, he was closely associated with St Michael’s as a choir member, choir-master and organist. With a long and close association with the Croatian community, Mr Vela conducted a Croatian choir at Christmas services at the cathedral, played the accordion in the tomburica band, and took an active part in performances of the kolo national dance.
A requiem Mass was celebrated at St Michael’s on November 23, with Fr Stephen Berecz presiding and with Msgr Bernard Kiely also present. The eulogy was delivered by Michael Vela, who gave an account of his father’s family life and business career. Michael Vela spoke of his father’s warmth and kindness as a parent and husband. Fr Berecz spoke of Tony’s strong faith and commitment, and the generous way he made himself available to play the organ at many weddings and funerals at St Michael’s over the years.
In 2018 Tony Vela was awarded the papal medal Benemerenti in recognition of his major contribution to church music in Auckland. May he rest in peace.
Among the comments under the death notice on the New Zealand Herald website was the following from Betty Fitzmaurice: “. . . [S]o gifted and talented musically – gave so much joy to people through his skills – a compassionate and caring heart. A God-fearing man who I know will rest in peace.”