Jensen_Place.jpg Jensen Place sign (2013). Mike Gooch. Word on the Street image collection.

The name Merv Jensen stands alongside the likes of Ned Shewry and Mick Herlihy as legends in the sport of sawing and wood chopping.

Mervyn Bernard George Jensen was born at Matau in 1916, the only son of George and Muriel Jensen. Merv married Merle Deacon in 1950 and the couple had eight children, four sons and four daughters. The family farmed in the Matau area until the late 1960s when they moved to New Plymouth.

Merv Jensen's long and illustrious sawing and chopping career began in Okoki at the age of 18. He went on to win countless national titles, as well as competing on the world stage. For many years Jensen was a regular entrant in the World Lumberjack Championships, held in Wisconsin each July. Diane McNamer, a representative of the organisation that runs the competition, reports that Merv Jensen is still remembered as an outstanding competitor, who won several world titles and set world records.

In his late 60s, Jensen was still competing and winning national titles. However, in March 1983, Jensen died suddenly while competing in Australia at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Fortunately for the family, the intervention of Government officials cleared the way for the return of his body less than a week after his death. Hundreds of mourners gathered at St Andrews Presbyterian Church in New Plymouth on Monday, 4 April, to farewell the champion axeman and sawyer.

Jensen Place, a short cul-de-sac in Frankleigh Park, is a lasting reminder of a great competitor. When Jensen and his business partner, John Hareb, were developing the area in the early 1970s, it was Hareb's suggestion to name the road after him, fitting recognition for his outstanding sporting achievements.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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