Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 56, September 2012
Within a period of six months the Paeroa District mourned the loss of a centurion and three nonagenarians, all women, who had given freely of their time and skills to the community they loved. Their combined efforts made the District made a much better for us all to continue to live.
Sylvia Plummer: 1913 – 2011
Lola Crawford Tye: 1914 - 2012
Flo Roberts: 1916—2012
Mona Jessie Townshend: 1910—2012
(Abridged eulogy by Allan Beattie and published in Ohinemuri Regional History Journal No. 54)
Paeroa's oldest resident, Mrs Mona Townshend, who celebrated her 100th birthday on January 5, 2010, passed away some three weeks after marking her 102nd year on January 31, 2012, in Ohinemuri Home.
During her lifetime she enjoyed generally good health mainly as a consequence of following a healthy lifestyle, being ever active both physically and mentally.
But most of all Mona was a realist, living a life of practical common sense, always attentive to the need of her larger family, surrounding herself with good friends and serving society as best she could through her church and other activities—all with a great sense of humour.
Mona Jessie was born in Auckland, somewhere near the zoo, on January 5, 1910, the second of seven children to Sarah and Joseph Spinley. Mona's Dad was a "stock buyer", i.e., a buyer of cattle for the meat business, who subsequently transferred to Hamilton, where she attended elementary school.
In 1921 Joseph Spinley and family moved to Morrinsville. Two years later, in 1923, Joseph passed away unexpectedly, at the age of 40, leaving wife Sarah to care for her seven children, whose ages ranged from 15 years to 4 years and without the assistance of a system of social welfare which is available today.
Her mother was able to finance the purchase of the sweetshop at the local movie theatre where for many years she toiled from 8.30 a.m. to 11.30 p.m., while somehow also attending to the needs of her seven children. This enormously hard working lady even added to her workload by also opening a refreshment kiosk at the Morrinsville saleyards to meet the needs of yarders, drovers, stock and station firm representatives and local farmers.
The demands of the family circumstances required Mona to leave school at age 15. For the next 11 years she worked both as a clerk/book-keeper at a Morrinsville butcher shop, and in the evenings, as an usherette at the movie theatre. Her book-keeping experience would serve her will in future years.
In 1936 Mona married Maurice Beattie, a stock agent, at Morrinsville. Maurice had been born in Paeroa in 1903, the youngest son in a family of 10 children of Irish heritage. Mona became the mother of three children: Marion, (1937), Allan (1940) and Lionel (1942).
Following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, all three of Mona's brothers, Douglas, Lloyd and Bruce, enlisted in the New Zealand Army to serve overseas. The year 1941 was to prove a tragic one for the Spinley family back home in Morrinsville. Both Douglas and Lloyd paid the supreme sacrifice during the Middle East campaign. Youngest brother, Bruce, fortunately survived the war, serving with the Red Cross in Italy and Yugoslavia. Later in the year, Mona's cousin, Maurice Spinley, a member of the Air Force, also lost his life before the end of the war.
One can scarcely imagine the pain the Spinley family was experiencing at that time, especially mother Sarah. She passed away the following year, 1942, at the age of 62, after a lifetime marked by hard toil and dedication to her children.
In 1943 the Beattie family moved to Paeroa where Maurice took a position as stock agent for the Hamilton firm G. W. Vercoe and Company. The family resided in a home adjacent to the saleyards at the north end of Coronation Street.
Paeroa stock sales were held every Monday and Mona would manage the café/tearooms when ever substitute staffing was needed. Mona was an active member of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, including the Women's Fellowship. She served on the committees of the Paeroa Croquet Club and Paeroa Country Women's Institute, and held the office of president for one term in each organisation.
Mona was employed for four years as secretary to George Gubbins, who was headmaster of the Paeroa District High School which comprised the primary (Wood Street) and secondary (Te Aroha Road) departments. Later she worked for many years as office secretary at the Simons Proprietary Limited's Paeroa brewery in Queen Street, with Harry May as manager.
In 1950 the Beattie family made their home in Corbett Street. Two years or so later, they purchased the footwear business in Normanby Road from the estate of the late Jim Shanahan, renaming it the Step In Shoe store and successfully ran the business for 11 years before retiring.
During this period the Beatties were keen participants of the monthly Ceiladh dances (Scottish Country dancing) held in the Anglican Church Hall.
She also continued her passion for the game of croquet, serving three years as club president and was the current patron and club life member.
In those days Mona was an avid reader, a regular knitter and skilled dressmaker. Regular reunions with her three sisters and her brother, Bruce, plus the many offspring were a rewarding feature of Mona's life at the time.
Along with her husband she maintained a keen interest in local Paeroa history. They were among the very early members of the Paeroa and District Historical Society. Mona filled the position of society treasurer, for some 27 years. In her early days in office she was involved with raising funds to open the Paeroa and District Museum, in April, 1979, behind the Paeroa Public Library.
On June 20, 1970, Maurice passed away at age 67, after experiencing a series of stokes.
In February, 1975, Mona was to remarry, to Charles Townshend, a well-known and long-time resident of the district, thereby becoming step-mother to Gray and the late Bruce Townshend, MP. Mona and Charles thoroughly enjoyed each other's company and their mutually enhanced family circles. Their warm relationship lasted 13 years, sadly ending in April, 1989, when Charles passed away aged 86.
Mona continued to live on at the home in Taylor's Avenue and maintained an always busy life style, walking into town frequently but still driving her car at the age of 93!
In 2006, at the age of 96, Mona took up residence at Ohinemuri Home in Keepa Avenue, where she has lived happily, surrounded by such friends as Flo Roberts, Gladys Blair and Leila Alley, sadly all three have passed on, plus numerous other companions.
Mona personally experienced roughly half of New Zealand's modern history. This is included two world wars, the influenza pandemic, the great depression, major world-wide political changes, new relationships between Maori, Pakeha and recent immigrants, and the arrival of modern amenities such as electricity, piped water, the automobile, radio, movies, telephone, aviation, plastics, refrigerators, television, among countless others, all the way to the home computer and today's internet. A truly overwhelming lifetime.
Among the many, many congratulatory letters and cards Mona received on the occasion of her 100th birthday pride of place was taken by those received from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor-General of New Zealand and the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
The Paeroa Co-operating Parish Church, St. Andrews, was filled to overflowing with family and friends who paid their respects to a truly great family matriarch and friend.
Sylvia Plummer: 1913 – 2011
(by Kelly Plummer)
Former long term resident of Paeroa, Sylvia Plummer passed away on December 10, 2011. After a short illness her life of 98 years and 8 months came to an end at Waikato Hospital.
Sylvia was born in Waihi on April 2, 1913, the second daughter of well-known Waihi identities, Harry and Minnie (nee Worth) Armour. At the age of 90 Sylvia wrote about her father's work:
"I was small and quiet and loved to spend lots of time sitting on a leather apron on the bench of my father's blacksmith shop. I just loved the horses and remember seeing children coming by after school and dipping their hands into a large tub of iron water which was deemed to be a cure for warts. I remember the glowing fire which was boosted by large bellows and hearing the ring of the horse shoes being hammered and shaped on the anvil."
Sylvia attended the South School and then after 18 months at secondary school she worked at Whiteheads Shoe Store in Waihi for nine years. During this time she was a regular attendee at dances throughout the Thames Valley district as she loved to dance. In the 1920s and 1930s entrepreneurs visited rural towns like Waihi and using local talent produced very popular variety shows. Billy Lintz was one such promoter and Sylvia was a dancer in several of his productions which took place at the Old Academy Theatre or the Miners Hall.
Hockey and Scottish dancing were also features of her leisure time activities. She loved her summer holidays at the family bach, "Wai Worri" at Waihi Beach and was keen swimmer in the surf right up into her eighties. After a short time working at Hannah's Shoe Store in Hamilton Sylvia shifted to Wellington and worked in another shoe store – Martins on Willis Street. Once again she participated in local cabaret shows.
It was at a Waihi Beach dance that she met Arch Plummer, a hairdresser from Paeroa. Even though he was older and still wearing his bowling creams she was drawn to that certain charm which Arch displayed. They got off to a great start! Arch escorted her back to "Wai Worri" and as he set off home he tumbled down the narrow track and ended up in the blackberry bushes!
Arch also had strong Thames Valley links with the Plummers being a well-known family hailing from Te Mata on the Thames Coast. They married early in 1942 and Sylvia moved to Paeroa where she lived for the next 64 years. At first they lived in a flat on the corner of Normanby Road and Russell Street.
Well-known Paeroa businessman, Mr W H Fleming, offered Arch two guineas to start a bank account if a baby was born. He duly paid up for Max and made the same offer if it happened again. Sure enough the first entry in both Max's and Kelly's Post Office Savings Bank Books was for £2-2s ($4.20).
Arch's Hairdresser and Tobacconist Shop in Belmont Road, opposite Brennan and Company's office, was a lively meeting place as issues of the day were discussed and debated. Being handy to the office of the Hauraki Plains Gazette regular visitors included Rei Darley, Frank Maisey and "Waldy" Waldergrave so the shop was a good place to catch up with news of the day. Arch had the knack of introducing a topic and then quietly continuing his tonsorial duties while heated debates developed around him, much to the amusement of those on the sideline. For approximately 12 years Fraser Taylor was his assistant barber and he eventually took over the business.
At the start of the 1950s with the addition of the two boys the Plummers were well settled in a new family home at 2 Onslow Road, Paeroa, built by Roberts Bros. This became a real centre of hospitality where many friends and relations enjoyed a cup of tea with some of Sylvia's fabulous baking and often departed with a fresh haircut or gifts of fruit or vegetables from Arch's garden.
Arch was a great bowler and throughout the fifties he played in the New Zealand Championships with such team mates as Les Shaw and "Nudger" Williams. Sylvia accompanied him to these tournaments. Arch was a member of the teams which won the Waikato Centre pairs and fours championships in 1952. It is little wonder that when the Paeroa Women's Bowling Club started Sylvia was a foundation member.
Living in Paeroa enabled Sylvia to reconnect with a long standing friend of the Worth family, Mrs Nel Climie and a very strong friendship developed with get-togethers often including Grace Morran.
As the boys grew Sylvia became more involved in the community and during her time in Paeroa she was involved in the Presbyterian Women's Fellowship (she was an early office holder and a member for at least 64 years); other church activities - she loved garden parties, church fairs and special celebrations. At the age of 96 she attended the centenary celebrations of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church buildings in Paeroa.
Other organisations to receive her devoted support were the Paeroa Branch of the Plunket Society and the Plunket Mothers group; lawn bowls; croquet; the Paeroa Drama Club; Women's Section of the Paeroa RSA; the arts and craft group; garden circle and Paeroa and District Historical Society.
In 1957 Sylvia nursed Arch through a serious illness but he made a remarkable recovery and lived for another 19 years to 1976. In 1979 she moved into a home unit at 1 Towers Court which had previously been occupied by Father O' Meara.
For many years she journeyed to Cairns each winter to holiday with Max and his family
After cooking a hot midday meal for herself for 30 years Sylvia decided that she needed extra support and in August 2006 it was her choice to go into the Hilda Ross rest home in Hamilton where she loved visits from friends and family and saw out her final days.
Lola Crawford Tye: 1914 - 2012
(by daughter Barbara Tye)
Lola Tye was in her 98th year and still living in her childhood home in Paeroa, on the Buchanan family farm called Kelvin Hill, when she died peacefully at Thames Hospital on April 7, 2012.
She led a very interesting life experiencing first hand many changes and events in society. The two world wars, the influenza epidemic, the depression and the coming of electricity to Paeroa to name some early events.
Lola was born at Paeroa Maternity Home, Arohanui, in Moore Street (now Taylor Avenue) on the December 31, 1914, to Annie Crawford and George Buchanan. It was her father's birthday. She was the youngest of nine children.
Education was highly prized by her parents. Lola attended Paeroa Primary School, Thames South School, Hamilton Technical College and Paeroa District High School . She walked or rode a horse to school and attended to chores such as milking five cows by hand, before and after school. Lola was one of the few local girls who sat and gained matriculation. Mr Preston was her most inspiring teacher. Lola believed having matriculation opened opportunities to her in the future.
Lola had a Christian upbringing and attended Church, Sunday School and Bible class at the Paeroa St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in which her christening, marriage and funeral service all took place. Lola's faith was at one with her character and way of living until her dying day. Leisure time was spent singing around the piano, sewing her own clothes, dancing, hiking, picnicking, ballet and music lessons, swimming in local waterholes, bible class camps and clubs. One club was the Band of Hope where the members promised not to drink alcohol until they were twenty one; the district was a dry area at that time.
Lola's first job was in O'Neil's Office, the local Barristers and Solicitors, from 1933 to 1937 which she said was great fun.
World War Two caused her to leave O'Neil's as men were being called up and her father needed her to work on the farms with him in place of the men. She worked with sheep and the pedigree Jersey stud. Horses were a part of this life and Lola belonged to the Hunt. Lola later bought the Kelvin Hill farm with her sister Ena.
Lola joined the local Woman's War Service Auxiliary and was called upon to do all sorts of jobs. For one she trained as a truck driver gaining her heavy traffic licence and drove Waihi Transport Buses, changing tyres and cleaning carburettors. She maintained her heavy traffic licence for many years.
In 1942 she joined the Army, through the NZWAC (New Zealand Women's Army Corp) expecting to be in the Northern District Signals Unit in Paeroa, but was transferred to Headquarters in Auckland to join the Cipher Unit during the time the Japanese were coming down into the Pacific. The camp was in Alexander Park where she lived in army huts. Later Lola trained as an instrument mechanic in Trentham Wellington and gained a Certificate in Electronics and she serviced tank radios from the Pacific.
Following this she was accepted for overseas service and with the 15th Reinforcements boarded the ship headed for Mardi, in Egypt. She worked in the Records Division recording the movement of troops. The war ended but Lola remained in Egypt until all New Zealand troops left for New Zealand and then was appointed to the New Zealand Records Division in London. She was in London for the Victory Parades, sleeping out all night in uniform to get a good position. Lola arrived back in New Zealand by troop ship in November, 1946 and was discharged from the Army in January, 1947.
Lola was from a strong Scottish heritage and to celebrate her return the Caledonian Society had a special welcome home dance. That night her romance began between Rufus Tye of Ngatea that culminated in their marriage at Paeroa on April 24, 1948, Lola was thirty three years old. Rationing, which started during the war, was still in place and friends and family gave their rations to help obtain materials for the wedding and petrol vouchers for the adventurous honeymoon trip to the South Island.
Married life began up the Coromandel in Waikawau with no running water or power, a coal range and a long drop toilet down the garden path. The first two children of six were born while at Waikawau. They moved to the Ngatea dairy farm in June, 1951. There they continued to reclaim the land from the swamp and had four more children.
Lola continued a life time of service to her family, to farming, to her community and her God. It is said she never had a lazy day in her life and was generous and gracious by nature.
Lola ensured her children had a great education through school and extracurricular activities transporting her six children to Scouts, Girl's Brigade, hockey, rugby, netball, swimming club, elocution, piano lessons, highland, Irish, ballet, and Caledonian dancing and supporting them through boarding school and tertiary education.
She cooked delicious food for family, shearers, haymakers, parties and guests; she gardened and preserved food to feed her family and to give away, and also gardened for the beauty of flowers. She was very involved with the produce and flower side of the Plains Agricultural and Pastoral show on the Hauraki Plains and the garden circle. Lola believed in organics and herbal medicines and vegetable juices to keep her family healthy.
She was very creative sewing clothes and ball gowns, dancing and fancy dress costumes, once staying up all night to finish three tutus. She dressed elegantly for many occasions including balls and the Mrs Ngatea competition. One creative enjoyment she pursued for herself was her art lessons with Mr Pinnock at Ngatea.
Lola remained an active member of the church. She was Sunday School Superintendant at Kerepehi while her own six children were young, and a member and leader in the Women's Fellowship.
She supported her husband throughout his life in raising a family and farming and in his service to the community through the Farmer's Veterinary Club, Federated Farmers, Hauraki Plains County Council, Eldership in the Presbyterian Church, in his Presidency of The Plains Agricultural and Pastoral Association and in his being a Justice of the Peace. She typed and proofed his writing of the Hauraki Plains Story, a book that records the history of the settlement of the Hauraki Plains.
In 1970 Lola and her husband began travelling outside New Zealand to visit her husband's family and in an official capacity. She went to Africa to be a delegate at the International Council of Women's Conference, with a National Council of Churches Group to Eastern Block Countries, and visited China with a Council for Mission Group.
In 1975 Lola and Rufus moved to Paeroa to live on her Paeroa farm which had been her childhood home until her marriage. They continued to farm Herefords and sheep. Lola spun, carded and dyed the sheep's wool to knit clothing and is lovingly remembered for the baby blankets and beanies and jerseys knitted for her twenty-three grandchildren.
Lola wrote her own book called "John and Margaret Buchanan 1861 to 1986." to document the Buchanan family story in New Zealand.
Lola continued serving her community. Together with her husband she was active in the Prisoner's Aid and Rehabilitation Society and later became a life member. No one left her home without garden produce, eggs, plants or flowers.
Lola survived her husband by twenty five years. She continued her life of living to the full and giving to others. Her grandchildren and children are thankful for her unconditional love. She exuded a positive attitude, a great thankfulness for all her blessings and an unwavering trust and faith in her God.
Flo Roberts: 1916—2012
(by Bev. Roberts)
There are many lovely adjectives that would describe Nana, but if I was asked to give just one . . . . I would say . . . . GIVER. That is it . . . . GIVER—in capital letters.
Many of you have visited her home and few would have gone away without having been given a bunch of flowers from her garden. We all remember her cherished roses, and her fabulous gypsophilla bushes—the florists in Paeroa loved her for them—or we were given apples or passionfruit, tomatoes, bunches of parsley, cabbage, you name it whatever was in the back garden, she gave.
Nana was a GIVER of her TIME . . . to her community and the friends and people who were bereaved or unwell. Do you remember . . . . She was always cooking or baking for some poor soul. I used to laugh when I heard her say: "I just have to take poor old Mrs so and so some flowers (or a meal or whatever). She doesn't have any visitors you know" . . . . Poor old Mrs so and so was often 10-15 years younger than Nana. She was also giver, along with her husband Bruce, by delivering Meals on Wheels for many years.
She gave to her church—remember all the baking and bottling, the knitted coat-hangers and knitted carry bags and purses, or teacozzies, the aprons and oven clothes she made and gave. When we closed up her home we found so many bits and pieces of ribbon, wool, scraps of fabric, cottons etc. Nana always had something she could have made for the church bring and buy.
And most importantly Nana gave her limitless love and loyalty to her family, to her wider family and many friends. She could not bear to hear criticism of the people she loved.
Yes . . . . that is it GIVER. Nana was a GIVER . . . . in capital letters.
Nana was born Florence May Thompson, eldest of four daughters to Bert and Violet Thompson, in Te Kutiti on January 31, 1916, making her 96 at her passing. Her father worked on the New Zealand Railways, and as in those days, transferred to several different townships along the Railways main Trunk line. She started school in Otorohanga, then to Piriaka, Taumaranui, Frankton, Whitirora (Hamilton), Tauranga and finally settling and remaining the rest of her life in Paeroa when her family were shifted here.
Being the eldest, she developed her wonderful maternal instincts helping care for her younger three sisters. Sadly Aunty Thelma, or Tup as we know her, the second born, is the only one remaining of the four girls alive today. We are grateful she is able to be here today so that we can share our grief with her.
Nana's father Bert, had a badly poisoned finger and had it removed when she was 12 years of age. With no ACC in those days and being unable to work for as reasonably long period, Nana left school to go to work at a fancy goods and music shop in Tauranga to earn an income and support the family. Can you imagine a 12-year-old today having to leave school and earn to feed a family of six. Unbelievable. She would have done it willingly, never complaining and in fact seeing it as her duty to care for her family. She later went on to work in Paeroa at Follets Bakery and then in Hannahs Shoe Shop until 1937 when she left to marry.
On August 28, 1937, she married Reginald William (Bruce) Roberts in this very same church and the church, then known as the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, continued to play a big part in Nana's life. She was an establishing member of the Women's Fellowship for 50 years as well as a Session Member of this same church.
Fourteen months after her marriage, Donald William was born and three years and three days later his sister, Judith May, was born.
Don and Judith went to give Flo and Bruce six grandsons—Greg, Andrew and Lincoln Roberts and Kevin, Steven and Ross Pett. Nan is also survived by eight and half great grandchildren.
During Nana's teens she played tennis at the Railway Tennis Club in Aorangi Road and later at Dickson's courts in Coronation Street.
In 1951 she began playing croquet and must have become a feared player. She won every trophy in the Paeroa Croquet Club. Nana in her second year of playing, won the C Grade championship, three years later won the B grade championship and went on to win the a grade championship, the Lamb Trophy, 15 times. She was acknowledged as a Life member of the Paeroa Croquet Club as well as the Thames Valley Croquet Association. Later she became a referee and judge. Yes, I imagine, feared and frustrated by many an aspiring croquet player.
Another of Nana's loves was playing cards, She loved 500, euchre and canasta. The noise around the table when the family played cards was legendary. I must say they also enjoyed penny poker and even the kids were included in that activity.
Often, as a young mother, she and Bruce would put Don and Judith on the back of their bikes and rode long distances into the country to the homes of friends, the Buchanan's in Awaiti and the Milroy's at Mackaytown for fun session of cards, then with the kids on the back of the bikes and rode home again. No tar-sealed roads in those days. All metal.
Yes—Nana was a GIVER alright—she had a good life. If we had asked her what would she change about her life I bet she would have said "NOTHING". Though I did ask her once that if she was able to have a career doing whatever she wanted, what would it be, and she told me she would have loved to have been a florist. She loved flowers along with her love of life.
From the writing of Nana herself: "I don't want sadness. I don't want tears. But just to be remembered through the passing years."
The ones we love remain with us
For love itself lives on,
And cherished memories do not fade
Because a loved one has gone.
The ones we love can never be
More than a thought apart
For as long as there is a memory
They'll live on in the heart.
I know there is little doubt that Nana have left us with many memories to give us comfort through the passing years. Nana we thank you for your loyalty and love and wonderful memories of you will stay with us for ever. RIP.