Rene Henke Obituary, Death – We regret to inform you of the demise of Rene Henke, a life member and a pillar of Wellington United who died away recently at the age of 94. In 1951, Rene left the Netherlands for New Zealand. He eventually made his home in Wellington. When Rene was on his way to play rugby for Onslow in 1954, he met a fellow Dutchman on the train who convinced him he should be playing football instead. Rene eventually found himself at the first meeting of the Zealandia Football Club.
Rene played for a few years, with the final game of his career occurring in the 1959 Hilton Petone Cup Final, when Division 2’s Zealandia defeated Division 1’s Miramar Rangers by a score of 3-2. (then an end-of-season competition). Due to an injury, he had to give up football, so he decided to become a referee instead. He also got active in the game’s administration, rising to the position of president of the Zealandia club in 1964. He played a key role in the club’s rebranding as Wellington United and the subsequent merger with Diamond’s in 1968, which resulted in the formation of Wellington Diamond United.
Rene was given a permanent place in the new club’s hierarchy and declared a life member. One of his earliest jobs at the club was working on the docks, where he could approach new immigrants as they arrived and convince them to join the team. He also made international trips to scout for new players in the United Kingdom. He returned from one of these trips in 1973 and confidently told the Evening Post that WDU will win the league in three years. Press criticism was particularly harsh after WDU’s demotion from the National League, but the Colonials went on to win three consecutive National League championships beginning in 1976.