Theodore, known to all as Dorrie, initially worked as a bootmaker, and the family lived at 10 Epuni Street, just off Aro Street. Dorrie had made a name for himself as a sportsman in his chosen sport of walking and he became a champion distance walker. He equalled the world record for the one-mile walk in 1893, becoming the fastest walker in Australasia.
By the time 1905-06 Electoral Roll records were compiled Dorrie and his wife were both registered as resident at the Town Hall, Lower Cuba Street, where Dorrie was custodian. He remained in this role, and living at the Town Hall, until his retirement in 1935.
On 23 January 1915 Rebecca died, and was buried in the newly opened section for Anglican burials at Karori Cemetery. In an odd little item in the Evening Post in October 1915 there was a report of a party at Dorrie's house, a celebration of his daughter's first birthday, attended by a Mrs Goodwin, of Timaru, who had adopted the baby. it seems Rebecca had a last child in October 1914, though there is no birth registered for a Joyce Louvain Leslie in that year. Registration records for adopted children are not usually published on the NZ BDM records available online. Obviously the adoption was an open one, and there may have been a family relationship to Mrs Goodwin.
Dorrie was keen on all sports and developed a reputation as the “go to” person for handling the start of athletic events, withholding the shot from the starter's pistol for 2 seconds after “Ready, Set”. He also started races from behind the competitors, rather than alongside, which was apparently unusual. He was a popular attender of sporting events of all kinds, to which he was generally accompanied by his fox terrier. He also ran and managed sporting events, such as boxing and wrestling matches, and developed skills as a sports trainer and masseuse.
Two years after Rebecca died Dorrie married again, to Jessie Ann TURFIS, who was born in Edinburgh about 1873, and had a 13 year old son James. Jessie had been widowed about the same time as Dorrie. They had no children together.
In 1932, with preparation for the 10th Olympic Games to be held in Los Angeles underway, Dorrie was invited by the International Amateur Athletic Association to be one of the official starters for the athletics events. This was of course the era of the worldwide Great Depression and many nations and athletes were unable to pay for the trip to Los Angeles. Fewer than half the participants of the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam returned to compete in 1932. Even so New Zealand managed to send its largest team to date, with 21 members comprising 11 rowers, 6 athletes, 3 boxers and 1 cyclist. The officials were: Manager, P N Rundle; Boxing and Athletic coach, W J Heenan; Rowing coach C A Healey.
However, the New Zealand Olympic Council was unwilling to pay Dorrie’s expenses, so a fundraising committee was formed - the Leslie Testimonial Fund – and £70 was raised. Dorrie and Jessie set off on the SS Monowai, departing Wellington on the 14th of June. Also on board were most of the New Zealand Olympics team, including officials. The Monowai arrived in Los Angeles on 1 July, in plenty of time for the team to acclimatise and prepare before the opening ceremony on 30 July. According to the passenger manifest, the Leslie’s were treated as if they were part of the Olympics team, and their fares had been paid by the New Zealand Olympic Association.
Jack Lovelock was a member of the team, but travelled to Los Angeles from England where he was studying medicine at Exeter College, Oxford. Lovelock was placed 7th in the final of the 1500 metres event. The following year he set a world mile record of 4:07.6 when running at Princeton, and of course in 1936 in Berlin his record time of 3:47.8 in the men’s 1500 m final ensured he won a gold medal. In 1932 New Zealand won only one medal, when the rowers Cyril Stiles and Fred Thompson came second in the men’s coxless pair.
Dorrie reported in letters home that he had been the official starter for various athletic events, and claimed to have been starter for both the first and the last events on the programme.
An innovation for New Zealand during the 1932 Olympics was the daily one-hour radio report on the Olympics for New Zealand and Australia by the film actress from New Zealand, Nola Luxford who had been living and working in Los Angeles for some years.
Dorrie continued his sporting activities after returning to New Zealand, and after his retirement in 1935, when he and Jessie moved to 284 Queen’s Drive, Lyall Bay, where they lived for the rest of their lives. Jessie died in 1945, and Dorrie in 1950. Both were cremated and their ashes interred in the family plot, joining his daughter Dorothy Victoria (died 1947) and her husband James Cassey (died 1940), and Emma Iremonger (nee Leslie) who died in 1918. The following year Dorrie’s son Cyril Theodore was also interred, and another daughter Gladys Sylvia (Hendry) was interred in 1961, followed by Dorrie’s stepson James Turfis in 1966. Altogether there are nine names on the headstone.
Dorrie’s family plot is easy to access on the left of the main road through the cemetery just before what is known as the “Three Vaults”. It is in reasonably good repair, but the concrete top is broken and looks very fragile - step on the stronger side concrete strips if you want to read the inscriptions on the headstone.
In 1951 the City Council was petitioned by the Lyall Bay Resident’s Association to name a small park area at the southern end of Lyall Bay after Dorrie. It still bears his name today – the Dorrie Leslie Park – and is a well-used boat launching ramp adjacent to the intersection with Hungerford Road.
Passenger transcript for SS Monowai - http://home.ancestry.com.au/
Evening Post, via https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/