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Levi, Phineas (1858–1942)

The death of Mr. Phineas Levi occurred today in a private hospital at Napier after a long illness.

Mr. Levi has the distinction of being probably the oldest practising barrister in New Zealand and the number of his friends both in the legal profession and in wider spheres was legion. He had a great knowledge of the law and, as one of his eminent colleagues remarked on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, by his scrupulous regard for the rules of fair play he had won the respect and admiration of all who knew him.

For over 60 years Mr. Levi had been a member of the legal profession in New Zealand, and he had been in practice in Wellington for about 53 years. He was born in Sydney on November 18, 1858, and came to New Zealand when he was eleven years of age. He received his education in Dunedin, and for nearly ten years was in the late Sir Robert Stout's office in that city. He was in practice for two years in the South Island, and after a year in practice in Palmerston North, came to Wellington. At one time he was in partnership with the late Mr F. G. Bolton, and for upwards of 25 years he was a partner of the late Sir Thomas Wilford, the partnership being dissolved on the latter's appointment as High Commissioner for New Zealand in London. Other partners in subsequent years were Mr. P. W. Jackson, Mr. M. G. Neal, and Mr. J. B. Yaldwyn, with whom Mr. Levi was still associated at the time of his death. He was in actual legal practice for 58 years.

In his earlier years at the Bar Mr. Levi appeared in a number of election petitions, which were much more frequent than they are nowadays. In these he appeared with some of the leading members of the Bar, including the late Sir Charles Skerrett, the late Sir John Findlay, and the present Chief Justice, the Rt. Hon. Sir Michael Myers. Long before Mr. Levi joined Sir Thomas Wilford he appeared in a petition which resulted in Sir Thomas being unseated as member for Hutt.

Many men who have made their mark in the legal profession were at one time or another in Mr. Levi's office. A notable example is that of Mr. H. F. O'Leary, K.C., the present president of the New Zealand Law Society, who was once office boy to Mr. Levi.

Mr. Levi was a prominent Freemason, his highest office being.Past Grand Registrar of the Grand Lodge o£ New. Zealand, conferred, in 1,934. He was a Royal Arch Mason, and was one of the earliest Past Masters of Wellington Lodge No. 1521 E.C. Other offices he held were Past Grand Warden of the District Grand Lodge of Wellington and foundation member and also Master of Research Lodge, Wellington, No. 194. He was one of the most prolific writers on Masonic matters. He was a foundation member of Lodge Eastbourne, No. 217, and P.Z. of Royal Arch Chapter No. 25, in which he took a great interest. He was Director of Ceremonies in Research Lodge, Wellington, for many years.

Mr. Levi was a member of the Victoria College Council from 1917 to 1939, and its chairman for a long period.

Keenly interested in bowling, he was a member of the Eastbourne Bowling Club, and for many years used to attend the championships at Rotorua. He was a keen member of the Repertory Society, always fond of music, and himself no mean pianist.

He was a member of the Massey College Board of Governors, and of the New Zealand University Senate. Failing health took him to Napier, where he had been in a private hospital for nearly three years. He leaves two daughters, Mrs. L. Stephenson, of Napier, and Mrs. Waring, of Sydney. There are several grandchildren.

The funeral will take place in Wellington shortly.

Original publication

  • Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand), 11 June 1942, p 7

Citation details

'Levi, Phineas (1858–1942)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/levi-phineas-20122/text31216, accessed 22 July 2018.

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