Mum and I at Dallas' daughter Ella's wedding in April 2017.
The catalyst for this book is an interesting story in itself. I have been blessed to have been born into the perfect family situation that has led to me having what you would call a charmed life. I was lucky enough to be the second son of two people who really were born to be parents. First of all they were totally devoted to one another. Together for six decades. Then, when they had kids they became totally devoted to those two very lucky boys, Dallas and Aidan.
I am the youngest son of Lillian and Noel Bennett. Not so young these days though at 54. My dear father Noel passed away in 2012. Since that time a focus has been looking after our mother Lillian. In short, it is our time to return the spoiling. During the last few years the admiration for my mum has only increased as she has bravely faced life without her soulmate of 60 years. I know it hasn’t been easy, but her strength to go on and be positive without dad has been amazing.
This admiration of my parents led me to suggest to mum that (with my help) she should share her life story. Mum was keen and the journey for both of us has been fun and rewarding.
My late father Noel loved life, was hugely proud of his family, and along the way he took photos and was good at recording and documenting things. Mum was involved as well, but dad was certainly the leader when it came to documenting the past. In putting together this book mum has really enjoyed delving into these old albums and files and also the records of her late parents. Along the way I have discovered things about my mum and dad and their families. It has been truly fascinating.
The journey has led me to believe that all people in their later years should record their life stories. To preserve the past for the generations ahead. So the concept of a simple life story publishing system we are calling ‘My Life Story Book’ was born.
The ‘My Life Story Book’ concept is that the life stories of those using the system will be recorded online for future generations to learn about their great grandparents, great great grandparents etc. whenever they want to. It will all be searchable online. This system also ensures that actual hard-copy printed books can be produced very economically at the time of publishing, so living relatives and friends can have an actual tangible copy. Affordability is the key ingredient of the whole system.
While the end result – the actual story – will be very special to families, the process of getting there should not be underestimated either. Working together with mum on the content for this book has been a special time. And I know mum has appreciated the help. If you are the son, daughter, grandchild or great grandchild of a senior person, I can highly recommend helping and encouraging that person to tell their story. That might mean recording their story. It might mean typing up their story on computer. It might mean proof-reading and/or editing their story along the way and giving them advice on what should be included. It may mean helping them to go over their photo albums and choosing and scanning the photos.
Being involved in helping to tell my mothers life story – preserving it for future generations – has been hugely rewarding for me personally. The story of Lillian Grace Bennett (nee Lowe) is an interesting one. By default we have also told the story of our late father, Noel Daniel Bennett.
Enjoy reading ‘My Life Story – Lillian Bennett’. Well done mum! Love you heaps.
Lillian Grace Bennett
Born Gisborne, New Zealand, 25/05/1933
Mother: Grace Alice Lowe (nee Buckley), born in New Zealand 1905, died 1980
Father: Bertie Norman Claude Lowe, born in New Zealand 1906, died 1984
Maternal Grand Parents
Mary Jane Buckley (nee Hammond), born in New Zealand 1877, died 1963
Alfred Joseph Buckley (Carpenter & Farmer), born in England 1872, died 1947
Maternal Great Grand Parents
Mary Jane Hammond (nee Dettmar), born in Germany 1851
Thomas Henry Hammond (Grainer), born in Germany 1850
Maternal Great Great Grand Parents
Jane Dettmar (nee Howell), born in England 1820
George Dettmar (Labourer), born in Germany 1814
Paternal Grand Mother & Father
Annie Gertrude Lowe (nee Neilson), born in New Zealand 1884, died 1940
Bertie Lowe (Caterer), born in New Zealand 1882, died 1964
Paternal Great Grand Mother & Father
Jane Neilson (nee Donaldson), born in Norway 1867, died 1929
Christian Neilson (Ships Captain), born in Norway 1853, died 1885
- Chapter 1 -
The Early Years
I was an only child and led a pretty indulged life. If I wanted anything one of the grandparents would supply it. As I tell my life story I will mention these gifts.
The first clear memories I have as a youngster is of our home in Disraelie Street in Gisborne, the small city on the east coast of New Zealand where I was born on May 25th, 1933. Our home was within walking distance of the main street of Gisborne.
It was in Gisborne’s town centre that my grandmother, Annie Lowe, had her ‘tearoom’ – the equivalent of what's called a cafe today. The tearoom was called “The Fresia” and they also did out-catering for weddings, birthdays and special occasions.
Annie Lowe was my father Claude’s mother and he worked at The Fresia for her. It was there that he met my mother Grace who also worked at the tearoom as a waitress.
I can remember spending time at the tearoom and a house across the road, where my grandparents Annie and Bertie Lowe lived.
I can remember my cousin Ian Wallace being there as well. Back in those days street photographers were very popular, so we would go up the main street trying to get our photograph taken.
When we were in our fifth year our grandmother and grandfather – whom we called “mum and dad” because everyone called them that – bought Ian and I a half-sized bike. We couldn’t ride a bike but learnt the hard way. We were very spoilt. In those days no one got a new bike so we were very happy.
Around 1939, when I was aged six, my grandmother Annie became ill and was in a sanitarium at Waipukurau and our grandfather took Ian, Brian (Ian’s brother and my cousin) and I to see her.
My grandmother died and she was only aged in her fifties. It was a huge shock to everyone. She had worked hard all her life. She and Bert operated hotels and she did a great deal of the work as Bert was always busy. He was a boxer of some note and also had race horses. My father Claude and his younger brother Clive enlisted in the army. Because they were brothers they were split up. Claude went to Fiji and Clive went to Crete. Clive was taken as a prisoner of war and was sent to Germany for the duration of the war. Claude returned to New Zealand and was based at the Ngaruawahia army camp.
My mother Grace and I came to Auckland and stayed with an aunt of mum’s in Grey Lynn. I went to school while we were in Auckland. My father Claude was then transferred to the Trentham Army Camp near Wellington in preparation for deployment in the Middle East. So mum and I then shifted to Wellington and lived in one room. We were able to see my dad if he was on leave. We had our meals at the railway station and once again I went to school.
I can remember the day the men, including my father Claude, were to be shipped out to the Middle East. There were crowds of people on the wharf. The train came onto the wharf and all we could do was touch his hand as the trained passed by. There was music playing “We’ll Meet Again”. Everyone there to farewell their loved one’s were crying – they were mostly women. It was a very sad time and even now when I hear that song I get very emotional and teary-eyed.
Mum and I went back to Gisborne when Claude went to war in the Middle East. We lived in Disraelie Street, within walking distance to town. I spent my primary school years at the Gisborne Central School right in town. It had a swimming pool and I learnt to swim. It was easier for me than learning to ride my bike!
I met my friend Ruth around that time. She was a year ahead of me at school, but she and her mum lived in a flat next to my Aunty Ivy and her daughter Janice. Like us, Ivy had come back to Gisborne when her husband Bill had also been posted overseas during the war. Ruth and her mum shifted to Disraelie Street a few years later.
Mum’s sister Thelma was a dressmaker and had a shop in Gisborne, close to the clock. Mum used to help Aunty Thelma, so I spent quite a bit of time there. I learnt to sew with scraps of material. I loved sewing and dressmaking so much and it has become a life-long passion for me.
Thelma’s husband Charlie had a restaurant on the opposite side of the road and Laurel, their daughter, worked there with her dad.
My mother Grace was a Buckley. Her parents Mary and Alf (Grandma and Grandad Buckley to me) had a farm at Manutuke, a few miles to the west of Gisborne, close to the mouth of the Waipaoa River. As a result, even though it was the lean war years, we never lacked for anything, as the farm produced enough for us all. My grandma was a very good gardener, growing flowers and vegetables.
My mum's oldest brother Fred was in the army and was also a prisoner of war for a while. The younger boys, Frank, Bill and Ted, were home on the farm until later in the war.
We had a car and could get out to the farm. My father Claude had ordered a new black Ford and it arrived just as he went into the army. Mum learnt to drive and I do have strong memories of her driving us up to Auckland. Thinking about it now, it was pretty gutsy of her at the time as the roads certainly were nothing like they are today.
Grandma Buckley spoilt us and always bought us lovely presents. One I remember she bought for me was a dolls pram, just like the real thing, and of course she also bought the dolls to put in the pram.
My Aunt Betty – Claude’s youngest sister – was only 17 when the war broke out, but as soon as she was old enough she also joined the army. At times it was very lonely for mum and I with everyone away. Even my grandfather Bert did a spell of cooking in an army camp.
But life had to carry on. Mum had a job looking after some young children in the day time. She also learnt to spin wool from a fleece and came to the Central School to do this with a group of ladies. Then they would knit the wool into socks, gloves and jerseys for the troops.
While I was still at primary school I had a freak accident. In our school grounds there was a flag pole, it was quite large, with stays. Everyone used to play around this pole and one day it cracked and fell on me. It knocked me out cold. When I came around I was violently ill, but fortunately I came right quite quickly.
My years at primary school were very enjoyable. Mum and I missed my dad Claude very much. He was on our minds all the time. We received letters from him and wrote to him often.
When we received a telegram to say he had been wounded in Italy our whole world fell apart. Luckily he wasn’t badly hurt, just shrapnel embedded in his body. He had carried out one of his mates who was badly wounded and had a lot of blood on him. We didn’t hear this until much later.
In 1945 I moved on to Gisborne Intermediate School and my two years there were very enjoyable. We were able to play hockey and softball which were completely new sports to me. My mum Grace had been a good hockey player herself, representing Poverty Bay (the region where Gisborne is situated). In my second year at intermediate school I was made a prefect, along with two friends Marian Neilson and Gladys Vincent.
Marian, Gladys and Janette Robinson and I became firm friends around this time and spent a great deal of time together. I am still in contact with Marion and Janette to this day, but have lost contact with Gladys.
Marion and I took our confirmation classes together, were confirmed together, and attended church together regularly. The Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Gisborne.
Our weekends from October on were spent at Waikanae Beach. The four of us would leave home early in the day with our lunch, swim suit, towel and tennis racquet and ride down to the beach on our bikes to spend the day in the sun. We were always the first on the tennis courts. Marian and Janette became top Gisborne/Poverty Bay tennis players.
Around this time four Marist boys were coming to the beach to play tennis. We were always there when they arrived, so they were a bit put out.
My father Claude came home from the war around this time. I can’t remember whether it was 1945 or 1946. But before he settled when he came home from the war, Claude and his brother Clive and their father Bert went bush possum hunting. I think it was very successful money-wise. After this time spent adjusting to life out of the army and getting over the war, Claude bought a milk run. This meant an early start for work and free time for him later in the day.
In late 1946 there was a polio out-break and all schools were closed for three months. We couldn’t go to places like the movies and had to do our school work by correspondence.
My high school years at Gisborne High School were good. We played outdoor basketball instead of hockey and I also took up athletics – running, high jump and long jump. We also all learnt to dance while at high school. Dancing classes were on a Saturday night.
After three years at high school I obtained my school certificate and left school.
At the end of my fifth form year we had a gymnastic display as an end-of-year celebration. I was on the vaulting horse when my elbow gave way and I ended up on the ground. I was taken to hospital by ambulance and had my elbow put back into place. I then spent quite some time with my elbow strapped to my body.
As the years moved on, many of the things we had to do without in those war years became available again. Nylon stockings was one thing I remember standing in the queue for.
My mother Grace and I. Being an only child we were very close. We went through a great deal together in the war years when my father was away at war.
That's me right in the middle, front row. My first job was at the Bank of New Zealand in Gisborne.
In my second year at Gisborne Intermediate School I was made a prefect. That's me, second from right, back row.
At Gisborne High School I played outdoor basketball and I also took up athletics – running, long jump and high jump.
A portrait painted of my Mum and I during the war years. My father Claude had it painted by an Italian prisoner of war in Italy.
My father Claude with his brother Clive and father Bert during a post-war possum hunting expedition.
I was a flower girl at Clive and Phoebe Lowe’s wedding.
An early photo in my late teens.
- Chapter 2 -
My Working Years; Marrying Noel; Having the Boys
I had intended to go to dental school to become a dental nurse. Unfortunately I was too young and needed to wait another year. My mum and dad were not happy about me leaving home so my father Claude found me a job at the Bank of New Zealand. He banked there and one of his army mates worked there as a teller. So I joined the bank in Gisborne in 1949.
At the bank I did all of the junior jobs and then I was trained to use the first ledger machines. Up until that time they had all been done by hand. There was a big staff, with 10 young men under 21 and five girls as well as the senior staff. Coincidentally, two of the young men were part of the Marist group who we used to see at the tennis courts at Waikanae Beach a few years before. One was Noel Bennett, my future husband.
At this time I was going out with my friend Janette’s brother and had been for some time. But the friendship was coming to an end. On a Friday night the four girls attended a Church of England dance held in the church hall. The Marist boys started coming to the dances which was quite a surprise. I would dance with them all, but Noel was the one who showed the most interest. Eventually he asked me out to the movies and that was how we got together.
Some time in my first year of work I was biking to work one morning when a car pulled out and knocked me off my bike. I wasn’t really hurt but one of the traffic police was right on the spot and the culprit was taken to court. I had to go to court and give evidence for the police. He was charged but I don’t know what happened. I think he may have been just charged and fined.
Mum and dad sold their milk run and bought a delicatessen in Cambridge. I lived with my Aunt Betty in Gisborne for a year-or-so and then decided to get a transfer in the bank to Cambridge. So I moved to Cambridge to be with mum and dad again. Noel used to come over from Gisborne most weekends which was quite a drive in those days.
Noel and I went to horse racing meetings all over the Waikato with mum and dad and took many day trips in the area. We became engaged after a while and went back to Gisborne for our engagement party at (Aunt) Betty Clarke’s.
When Noel turned 21 he went into the airforce to do his military training which was compulsory back then (CMT – Compulsory Military Training). He was posted to Taieri down in Dunedin for three months. The next year he went to Ohakea for three weeks.
Mum and dad sold the delicatessen in Cambridge and moved to Auckland, buying a grocery store in Mt Wellington. I transferred back to Gisborne. Noel was transferred to Whakatane with the bank and we started to plan a life together.
We knew it wasn’t going to be easy as we were of different faiths and I wasn’t inclined to become a Catholic. We knew his family were not going to be happy about Noel being married in an Anglican Church. In the end that was what happened, so sadly Noel’s family didn’t attend the wedding.
In 1954 I left the bank and went home to mum and dad again. I worked in Auckland at a sports store called Wiseman’s. It was a large store at that time with quite a large office staff.
Noel and I married on August 14th, 1954. The service was held at Saint Andrews Anglican Church in Epsom, Auckland, with the reception held close-by at the Sorrento reception lounge in One Tree Hill Domain. It was a really lovely wedding. My father Claude made sure we only had the best of everything.
We started our married life in a small flat in Whakatane. It wasn’t very convenient, so we looked into buying a small house. The first house we bought was a two bedroom stucco house about a mile out of Whakatane township in a small suburb called Kopeopeo. We were very happy there and did the place up to our liking.
There were quite a few young married couples in the Bank of New Zealand, and the other banks too, so we had a good circle of friends that we kept in contact with over the years.
I worked first for Bond and Bond in Whakatane, both in the office and selling, which was quite a change for me. Later I worked in the office of the local department store called Morpeths. At Morpeths we had the overhead money shoots coming up to the office from all the counters in the store. I was at Morpeths for many years.
Most of the other couples were having children, but it just didn’t happen for us and at one stage we even thought that maybe it just wasn’t meant to be, a family for Noel and I. Two of my friends, Ora and Melva, had by this time had two or three children.
Seven years after we were married I had a miscarriage and then just nine months later, on June 8th 1961, our first son Dallas was born which made us very happy. 17 months later, on November 6th 1962, our second son Aidan came along. This made everything complete.
Around this time Noel’s family also came back into our lives which was a very good thing for Noel. They had finally accepted the fact that we were together and were thrilled with the arrival of the two boys.
Just before Dallas was born there was an earthquake in Chile and it was thought we were going to have a Tsunami on our coast. The whole township of Whakatane were advised to go to high ground. The closest point was a hill overlooking the township and Ohope Beach where most of the township went. The whole town were there with dogs, cats and I can remember that I had a budgie in a cage.
The sea did go a long way out but luckily it came in very slowly and there wasn’t any damage, but I remember this as a worrying time.
Gradually many of our friends were being transferred out of Whakatane, going to all parts of New Zealand. We sold our house as the bank manager told Noel he too would be moving on very soon. We rented a house out at Ohope Beach over the hill from Whakatane for a while and then rented in town.
The transfer came in 1964 and we were off to Auckland which was great as that was where my mum and dad were. Noel’s job was at the Bank of New Zealand branch in Karangahape (K) Road, near central Auckland.
While we were in Whakatane we got our first Pug dog. The first of many that would be part of my life and our family. We called her Pixie and she was our loved family pet for 13 years.
During my life I have been a bridesmaid many times. When I was four I was flower girl for Clive and Phoebe Lowe. My cousin Laurel married Ferdy Rangiuia in Auckland and I was their bridesmaid. I would have been just 14 or 15 years old. When I was living in Cambridge, Marian and Trevor Williams married in Gisborne and I was maid of honour for them. After I was married and living in Whakatane, Ruth and Neville Cole married in Gisborne and once again I was maid of honour.
My mum and dad had a bit of luck in the early 60’s. They won first prize in the Golden Kiwi, the national lottery that was the equivalent of Lotto back then. They decided to close their grocery store and bought a nice new home unit in Papatoetoe. So when we were transferred to Auckland we stayed with them while looking for our own home.
We actually bought a house in the same road as their home in Papatoetoe, in Carruth Road. Dallas and Aidan went to kindergarten in Papatoetoe and then on to start primary school there when they turned five. For Aidan that was only for a month, as Noel had been transferred to an accountants role at the Bank of New Zealand branch in Waiuku, a small rural country town south west of Auckland.
When Noel arrived at the Bank of New Zealand branch at Karangahape Road he found that one of his old Gisborne mates, Murray Parkes, was working there. Noel and I had both worked with Murray in Gisborne. Murray had become a keen yachtie and Noel also took an interest in it and subsequently built himself a ‘Father and Son’ yacht and started sailing. The sport would become a significant part of our life as when we took a drive down to Waiuku to look at the new township, where we would be living for the next few years, there was a yacht club. But the tide was out and all we could see were mud flats, so we did wonder what the sailing would be like. Things turned out very well in this respect as the years went by and Waiuku Yacht Club was a place where we spent a lot of time as a family.
In addition to my immediate family I talk about extensively in this book, there were also some people who have been important to me through my life, particularly in my formative years. They also played a part in guiding me through my life. Sadly most have passed away, but I thought it important that I mention these special people in this book.
As an only child, and also because mum and I spent a few years on our own when dad was away at war, my extended family were most important.
Betty Clark, my father Claude’s younger sister, was one of the most important. I lived with Betty and her husband Alan when mum and dad left Gisborne to live in Cambridge. In later life she was more like a sister to me. Betty and Alan had two sons, Robert and Lyndsay. Lyndsay – who was my godson – joined the army at 18 and was sadly killed in a motor accident while in the forces. Robert now lives on Waiheke Island, near Auckland, and we keep in touch.
Laurel, my cousin and Aunty Thelma Jackson’s daughter, was more like the sister I didn’t have. We were close in age – she was just seven years my senior – and we had a lot in common. Over the years Laurel and her husband Ferdy (Rangiuia) were always on hand to help whenever needed. I could always rely on them, and Noel and I enjoyed their company as well. Along the way we had a lot to do with their family which included their son Glen and two daughters, Laurian and Robyn. I am still in contact with them despite the fact they have all lived in other parts for decades now. Laurel’s sister Carollyn now lives in Australia, but we do correspond. Glen is also my godson and Laurian was the flower girl at our wedding.
My uncles Bill and Ted were my mother Grace’s younger brothers. They were both single men for a long time, although Ted did marry and had a daughter. Through the years both Bill and Ted would spend Christmas with mum, dad and I, and Bill came to live with mum and dad in Papatoetoe when he finished working on a station in the South Island. He found a job in Papatoetoe for a few years and then retired to live with Ted in Hawkes Bay. All the nieces were named in Bill’s will when he passed away.
During the war my Grandma (Mary) and Grandfather (Alf) Buckley were wonderful and most important to mum and I. We spent a lot of time at their farm. When they sold the farm to mums brother Fred, Grandma moved to Auckland to live with her sister Emily and Grandad came to live with us in Disraelie Street, Gisborne. Grandad Alf used to go to the rugby every Saturday as it was just over the road from us. He did enjoy his Saturday’s at the rugby, sitting beside the same mates every week. He actually died sitting and watching the rugby, a good way for him to go – enjoying something he loved!
My aunty Enid Wallace was my dad’s older sister and was mother to Brian, Ian, Graham and Clive – my cousins. I had grown up with the boys in Gisborne and when we went to live in Waiuku Ian was our milkman. Enid’s husband and the boy’s father Barney had owned a bakery in Waiuku for many years and they had all worked in that business on and off. I saw quite a bit of Enid in her later years as she lived in Waiuku, not far from us, and my mum and dad would visit her when in town. Despite living in Gisborne, my aunty Betty Clark would also visit Enid often. It was great when they all got together and I always loved seeing Betty.
When we were transferred to Auckland I started to go to the Bank Officers Wives Club. We had lunch at the Farmers department store cafe once a month. I can’t remember why I became the treasurer as I hadn’t been going very long. When there was the changeover to decimal currency in 1967. On the day of that change we were selling a special type of flower vases to members and I was really nervous about it. But it all worked out in the end and I did wonder what I was so worried about.
Noel and I in the early 'courting' days
Noel and I married on August 14th, 1954. The service was held at Saint Andrews Anglican Church in Epsom, Auckland, with the reception held close-by at the Sorrento reception lounge in One Tree Hill Domain.
Mum and dad were so proud on my wedding day, August 14th, 1954.
Some artistic photography of Noel and I on our wedding day.
That’s me right as the bridesmaid at my cousin Laurel’s wedding to Ferdy Rangiuia. I was always close to Laurel and Ferdy, she was like the sister I never had.
Mid 60's, the boys and I with my mother Grace.
- Chapter 3 -
The Waiuku Years
We moved out to the rural southwest Auckland town of Waiuku when Noel was promoted to a role as accountant at the local Bank of New Zealand branch.
Waiuku is a country town located at the southern end of the Waiuku River, which is an estuarial arm of the Manukau Harbour. It is 40 kilometres southwest of Auckland city centre, and 12 kilometres north of the mouth of the Waikato River. The town serves to support local farming, and is the residence of many employees of a large steel mill at Glenbrook, which is four kilometres to the northeast.
When first arriving in Waiuku we rented a flat for a short while as Noel settled into his new role at the bank. There were a good staff there who all became our friends.
Dallas and Aidan started the new year at View Road School, but a new school was being built at Sandspit Road on the northern edge of town and they transferred there when it opened. They were founding pupils.
The little flat we had wasn’t really suitable, so while we were building our new home in Waiuku we rented a very old house in Kent Street. It was very run down but it was home for some time while our brand new home was being built on a large section in a lovely new cul-de-sac, Azalea Place, in Waiuku. I can recall us spending a lot of time planting trees and mowing lawns at the new section.
By the time our new home was finished and ready to move into, it was time for the boys to move to Sandspit Road School which was a lovely new school with most things required but no extra money for other needed bits and pieces. So a school committee was formed, and then a parent teachers association (PTA) committee and we set about raising the money as parents. I was on the inaugural PTA and became the secretary/treasurer. It was a very good committee, with a mixture of new people and identities of the town. We quickly had a good fundraising programme under way.
One of the things that became an annual event was our wine and cheese evenings at Sandspit Road School. We always had an entertainer and the events were very popular and we raised plenty of money for the new school.
In 1969, Don and Margaret Barker moved to Waiuku with their young family. Don was a pharmacist and opened a brand new pharmacy in Waiuku. He was referred to Noel by his bank where he had come from in Auckland, and we quickly became firm friends with the Barker family. Don and Margaret had two young girls at the time, Michelle and Kerrie, and a third, Andrea, came along a few years later.
Around this time the town clerk’s wife put an advert in the local paper, the Franklin County News, seeking people who were interested in starting up a yoga class in Waiuku. I answered the advert and so we started our classes in the Anglican Church Hall with a tape to guide us. The vicars wife also joined us, so I can’t remember if we had to pay for the use of the hall. Pat Batten was another yoga class person. We became friends and decided to carry on with our yoga and over time became more experienced. There was a class over in Pukekohe, the neighbouring township, that was more advanced. They had a tutor come out from Auckland each week, so we joined the class to learn more. In the ensuing years Pat Batten and I took classes in the Waiuku Yacht Club and were then asked to run our yoga classes at night classes at the local secondary school, Waiuku College. So we then had two classes a week, one in the morning and one in the evening. We continued these classes for 25 years right up until we both left Waiuku.
The Waiuku Yacht Club became very important in our family life. When we arrived in Waiuku the clubhouse was in a pretty bad way. So all the members joined together to create a much better clubhouse.
With some resourceful work by the committee that Noel was very involved in, the club was given a building from New Zealand Steel. They had their big mill at Glenbrook which employed a high percentage of the local population.
Noel was sailing his Father & Son boat he had built at the club. He also built the boys a P-Class yacht each when they were old enough to sail. He was always a very good handyman who was capable of building and creating just about anything.
So as a family we spent every second weekend sailing at Waiuku Yacht Club. The Waiuku estuary was very tidal, with the basin where we sailed being mud flats when the tide was completely out. So yachting is always done every second weekend in Waiuku to fit in with the tides.
Our good friend Don Barker was a very keen sailor, one of New Zealand’s leading Zephyr Class sailors at the time and was a driving force, along with Noel, at the yacht club. It wasn’t long before Noel also had a Zephyr and then progressed to the bigger Finn Class boat that had a good fleet at Waiuku. While Noel was a competent sailor, he was never at the front of the fleet by any means. But he loved it and the boys did too. It gave me great enjoyment as well and we met lots of people. It was very social. A highlight were trips we also went on to sail at other clubs around the Auckland region and sometimes a bit further afield.
The boys excelled in their P-Classes and were both club champions at different times. Dallas became a particularly good sailor and progressed to the Finn Class and his sailing progressed from there. He later went on to become a sailmaker by trade and yachting was his profession for most of the first decade of his working life.
Noel had always wanted a camper van and eventually his handyman instincts took over and he became pretty good at turning vans into camper vans. In fact we had three in our lives that Noel had created, complete with sleeping and cooking amenities. It was something we actually enjoyed doing together when I think back to those times. I enjoyed sewing, so my role was to carry out the upholstery work for each of the vans. We had many lovely holidays in the vans, going all over the country. Initially with the boys and then just Noel and I, with usually one of our ever-faithful dogs with us as well.
A highlight of those early Waiuku years was the many camping holidays with the Barker family. They were usually after Christmas. We would go to a different beach camp with our camper van, tents and their hired caravan. One year I remember Noel had bought a trailer-sailor yacht – like a keeler, but with an adjustable keel so you could put it on a trailer. It was called Cloud Nine and it was his pride and joy. When on holiday we would often sail by day on Cloud Nine and then sleep in her cabin at night in the camping ground. During those years we went up north, we went to the Coromandel, we went to the Bay of Plenty and places like Rotorua and Taupo.
My mum and dad, Claude and Grace, were very important in all our lives through their later years in the 1960’s, 1970’s and the 1980’s. They came down to Waiuku from their base at Papatoetoe most weekends to see the boys sailing and later to watch them play rugby and cricket. They hardly ever missed a sporting occasion that Dallas and Aidan were involved in, and if they did, the boys would be very concerned and would need to know why. They loved their grandparents.
After we had been in our new Waiuku house for a few years, Noel and the boys decided we needed a swimming pool. So Noel set about building a lovely swimming pool using a concrete boat system. We had quite a bit of help from friends but as a family we did alot of the digging ourselves. The concreting was very interesting and the system worked very well. We ended up with a 30 foot pool (just over nine metres) along with a small spa pool. The pool was very deep at one end so the boys could dive and it was a much-used pool. The only mishap we had was Dallas breaking his wrist. I think he was about 12 years old at the time.
In 1972 a goodwill ship came into Auckland from Japan. This was a ship full of Japanese teenagers and many of them came out to Waiuku as local scondary school teacher John Anderson had been in Japan during the occupation and after the war had invited a large number to come to Waiuku. The boys were still at primary school and John’s son Neil was Dallas’ best friend. So we were asked to billet one of these teenagers for a few days. We agreed, thinking we would have one, but we ended up with two girls.
We obviously spoke no Japanese and they spoke very little English. Having the two girls helped when we were trying to understand one another. They were lovely girls, very adaptable, they enjoyed our food and they got on well with everyone. It was a pleasure to have them in our home.
One of them worked in a bank and wanted to go to a bank to see how they operated in New Zealand. The Japanese girl showed the locals how they counted the notes in Japan and then the BNZ staff demonstrated their way of counting and showed them around. The second girl came from a Carnation and Pear Farm so we went to a farm of a friend who grew fruit and flowers. For some reason they also wanted to see our dental clinics, they had heard about them and had nothing in their schools like them. So we went to Sandspit Road School’s dental clinic.
Noel and I were to return the girls to their ship and we were entertained for the evening. The day before this they asked if I would show them how to bake biscuits as this is something they didn't do at home. We spent the day baking. From memory we made afghans, peanut brownies and shortbread. We boxed them up and they took them back to the ship and proudly told their friends that they had made them.
We had a lovely evening on the ship, with lovely food and before we left the girls dressed me in one of their Kimonos and slippers and told me they were mine to keep. I was speechless, but they insisted as they had enjoyed their stay with us so much and it was their way of showing their appreciation. Yoyoi, one of the girls, said she was coming back to New Zealand to find herself a husband as the men were more considerate. We think she had her eye on on one of the guys at the local BNZ!
I was about 35 years old before I learned to drive. I usually rode a bike as it was something I had done all my life. My cousin Laurel’s husband Ferdy Rangiuia had given me a few lessons when we lived in Papatoetoe. We had a small accident during one of those lessons and it had put me off. Noel wasn’t very patient with me, so one day he came home and told me I was having driving lessons that day. He pushed me into it. I am glad he did as it was all very successful as I learnt to drive and got my licence with no trouble at all. Noel bought me a big old Austin so I could run the boys around to their sports.
The years seemed to go by so quickly.
The time the boys were at Sandspit Road School were enjoyable for all of us. Noel and I made some good friends with the parents and the staff.
The boys joined scouts as one of their teachers was the leader and they built canoes and when finished the scout group circumnavigated Lake Waikaremoana (down in the Urewera Ranges) with two boys to a canoe. I can remember this was quite exciting for them.
Dallas moved off to Waiuku College, followed by Aidan the following year. They both played cricket and rugby for the college. Everything was so close as where we lived in Azalea Place was very close to both the college and the local rugby club.
Their first game of cricket for the college didn’t get off to a very good start, as when they arrived to play against another school there wasn’t any wickets. So Noel came home and cut up my broom handles into three and they became the temporary wickets. From this Noel stood for the school Board of Governors and was duly voted in and he stayed in that position for quite a few years. He set about ensuring that the school had all the sporting amenities it needed, including some brand new cricket nets with concrete pads. The cricketers at Waiuku College had never had it so good!
Dallas and Aidan played cricket for the school in the summer and were also good enough to get into the Franklin representative cricket teams, often being chosen for the same team.
They also played rugby for Waiuku College in the winter, so our weekends in both summer and winter were pretty full. Every second weekend in the summer it was yachting as well as cricket so we led a pretty active life as a family.
When Dallas was eight and Aidan was seven I learned that I was expecting another child. It was quite a shock as we did think our family was complete. It really was a thrill to think maybe we would have a wee girl. Sadly, it wasn’t to be as I lost the baby at five months.
Around this time Noel also left the bank and started a new career as an insurance agent with AMP. He was able to work from home which was a real change in lifestyle for us. I worked for a few people in town on a casual basis, but mostly for Jean Newman who owned a ladies dress shop. She used to take me with her when she was buying. I enjoyed that very much.
In June of 1978 Noels father Harry Bennett passed away. He was 80 years old. Kathleen, Noel's mother, moved in with his brother Pat Bennett and his wife Joy. They all still lived in Gisborne and hardly ever left the place. The arrangement was that Kathleen would spend six months with Noel’s brother and then come north to spend six months with us. Pat and Joy would drive through to Rotorua and we would meet them there for the changeover.
After a few years we sold our split level home we had built in Azalea Place and moved just around the corner to a new townhouse in Norfolk Rise. We also owned the large section alongside the townhouse with the intention to build once again. The section was very handy for boats and cars to flow onto at first, and we built a large shed at the back. The townhouse we were living in was smallish but we managed in it very well. The boys had a bedroom up on the mezzanine floor.
While we were living there our pug dog Pixie died, she was 13 years old. We all missed her very much as she had been part of our lives for so long. She died in October and just before Christmas that year Noel and Dallas went off and came home with a surprise for me. Another Pug, very similar, that we called Pepsie. After Christmas we were off camping with the Barker family and we took this wee little cute pug puppy with us. She was very spoilt. The Barker girls dressed her up in their dolls clothes and young people from all over the camping ground came around to see our cute little Pepsie. She became a much more active dog than our first pug Pixie as she followed the boys everywhere from the time she was a puppy. She went to rugby and cricket practice, and she went to yachting. She even loved the water and pugs are not known for loving the water and swimming. One time she went missing down at Sandspit near the yacht club when there was a regatta on. She was finally spotted, swimming for her life in the middle of the bay. Fortunately, Noel was in the rescue boat and we were able to contact him and he was able to pick her up!
Frighteningly, at one stage Pepsie started having fits. When they were over it was like nothing had happened. The fits were getting more and more frequent so we located a vet in Papakura who kept her at the clinic for quite a few days. He decided that she wasn’t going to improve with any treatment and advised that she should be put to rest. Noel and I went to say our goodbyes. Aidan arrived to see her too. She perked up so much when she saw Aidan that the vet decided he would operate and try and find a cause. Lucky he did as he found she had an abscess on her pancreas and the intense pain was causing her to have fits. Aidan picked her up on his way to Waiuku from Auckland a few days later and she was all good and lived to the ripe old doggy age of 13 years.
When Dallas had finished sixth form at Waiuku College he went off to Manukau Technical Institute to study Civil Engineering. He lived with my mum and dad – the boys called them Claude and Nana – at their Papatoetoe home, returning to Waiuku for the weekends. He spent a whole year studying there, but when he saw an advert in the paper for a sailmaking apprenticeship with Lidgard Sails, he applied for it, and went to work for them. He loved his yachting and had always wanted to be a sailmaker. He loved it and duly completed his apprenticeship while satisfying his passion for sailing which was part of the job.
Aidan always wanted to be a journalist, but when he saw an advertisement in the paper for an advertising cadetship at the New Zealand Herald he applied for it, and was successful. Just before the end of the year exams for the sixth form two executives from the Herald came out to Waiuku to interview him. They had been impressed with his application and they wanted to meet him. They gave him the job and wanted him to start before the school year finished, which he did. But we made it a stipulation that he had to come back to sit his final UE exams. Aidan also moved in with my mum and dad in Papatoetoe, commuted in to central Auckland to the Herald during the week and also came home to Waiuku every weekend.
Dallas was very happy sailmaking and it led him into top-level yachting which he loved. Over the years he has subsequently sailed all over the world. A well-respected mainsheet trimmer, he sailed professionally with leading Kiwi helmsman Chris Dickson on the world match racing circuit during the 1980’s. They were world champions, winning the Gold Cup. He has also competed in the famous Fastnet Race, part of the Admiral’s Cup in England, for New Zealand in the Kenwood Cup in Hawaii and in Regattas in Europe, the USA, Asia and Australia.
Aidan did a Certificate in Advertising at ATI (now a degree at AUT) all part-time as part of his advertising cadetship with the New Zealand Herald. At the same time he was playing rugby for Waiuku, so did a lot of travel between Auckland and Waiuku for training and matches.
A story I feel I should tell is the day I threatened to stop a rugby game because Aidan didn’t have his mouthguard in. When he left school he was playing senior rugby for Waiuku as a halfback at a very young age. He already had one damaged tooth from rugby. I was sitting in the stand with Noel watching the match when I realised there was no mouthguard in his mouth. Before Noel could stop me I went down to the manager and asked where the bags were. I found his bag and his mouthguard and stood on the sideline until the manager said he would get it to Aidan during the next lineout.
Life for Noel and I became very different without the boys living at home with us in Waiuku. I know I was quite lost for a while.
Family portrait taken in the early 70s.
As a family we spent every second weekend sailing at Waiuku Yacht Club. It was a great family pastime. Noel loved preparing the boats, the boys both loved it and I was always involved as well. My mum Grace is also in the photo.
Dallas as a youngster outside our Azalea Place home we built in Waiuku. It was a great family home for many years with lots of room, a big section and swimming pool.
The swimming pool that Noel built at our Azalea Place home in Waiuku.
Dallas and Aidan were founding pupils at Sandspit Road School in Waiuku. I was on the inaugural PTA and became the secretary-treasurer.
The townhouse we bought and lived in Norfolk Rise, Waiuku, before we built on the section (to the right) next door.
Being close in age Dallas and Aidan often played in the same sports teams at school. They were both key players in the Waiuku College 1st XV, in the late 70s.
Dallas and Aidan at Waiuku College’s practice cricket nets. Noel was the driving force behind getting them built and the boys spent hours in them.
Dallas and Aidan were both in the Franklin (now Counties) schools rep cricket side. Photo from around the mid 70s.
The Waiuku Yacht Club.
Noel loved his trailer sailer yacht we called Cloud Nine.
The camping holidays with the Barkers were an annual highlight for a few years.
Noel and I with our friends the Percy’s in Waikiki, Hawaii, 1986.
On holiday in Brisbane, Australia.
- Chapter 4 -
The Nest Empties
We decided to build on our section and set about getting a plan and builder organised. It was a very interesting exercise which we enjoyed. Sam Shackleton, a builder we had known from the yacht club, was starting off in business so we gave him the job and we were very happy with the completed house and their workmanship.
Noel was not a big overseas traveller. He loved to trip around New Zealand, but as the boys will tell you, he used to read about the places overseas and that was enough for him. But around this time we had quite a few trips which I really enjoyed. We went to Australia, Fiji and Noumea on different trips. We both enjoyed them immensely.
Before the house was completed we sold the next door townhouse and we moved into a caravan at the back of the new house while it was being built. We already had the big shed in place so we managed pretty well and it wasn’t long before the brand new house was completed and we could move in.
At the same time I answered an advert in the Franklin County News, the local newspaper. They had a job selling advertising in the Waiuku area. The newspaper covered the whole of the Franklin area, and Waiuku was a key township. I needed something to do now that the boys were away and this job suited me perfectly. I worked three days a week in Waiuku and then went to Pukekohe on Thursday with all the advertising I had sold. These were the days before both the internet and the fax machine. I really enjoyed the job and did it for about seven years.
My mother Grace died in 1980. She hadn’t been well for quite some time and a week before she died we found out she had cancer. It had never been picked up. My dear mum passed away on Boxing Day in 1980. She was 76 years old. I did miss her so much as we were very close having been through so much together, including those war years when we only really had each other. Understandably, my dad Claude missed mum immensely as well and never really recovered from her loss.
Dallas and Aidan were living with Claude and mum at that time, so when she passed away it was great that they were able to stay and comfort him. When they moved on to their own flats he was on his own a bit for a while and then came to live with us in Waiuku when he became too ill to live on his own. Like most his age he had smoked quite a bit through his life and as a result suffered from emphysema through the later parts of his life. This is a condition in which the air sacs of the lungs are damaged and enlarged, causing breathlessness. Claude passed away in 1984. Like mum, I missed him dearly.
We sold mum and dads home unit in Papatoetoe and another stage in our lives had come to an end.
As is the case with many young Kiwis, Dallas and Aidan decided to go and see the world so departed at different times on their ‘OE’s’. After completing his five years and a cadetship at the Herald, Aidan went with a couple of his mates with the intention of staying for a year or more in the UK, but he was back inside six months as he missed his girlfriend Michelle.
Dallas finished his sailmaking apprenticeship and went off and spent quite a bit of time travelling around Europe in a camper van and living in the UK. We had told him to call collect if he wanted to get in touch and we received calls from many strange places. Back then it was still a manual telephone exchange system so the call would come through and the operator would say “will you accept a call from a Mr Bennett calling from Munich or Barcelona”.
In early January 1986 Aidan was the first of the boys to get married. He married Michelle (one of the Barker family), they had known one another since they were four and five years old. As I write this in early 2017 they have been married over 31 years.
All arrangements for Aidan and Michelle’s wedding had been made, but Dallas was still overseas and living in London. We were a bit disappointed that he probably was not going to get back for his brother’s wedding. To everyone’s surprise he arrived home the day before and we were all thrilled.
It was a lovely wedding held at a lovely church in Epsom. It was also a very hot day. The reception was held at the Sorrento on One Tree Hill, where Noel and I had our wedding reception.
Later in 1986 Dallas was sailing in Hawaii in the Kenwood Cup so Noel and I decided to go along with Harold and Diane Percy, the parents of Dallas’ girlfriend at the time. We had a wonderful three weeks in a condominium close to the yacht club from where the racing was based. New Zealand won the Kenwood Cup that year and being at the presentation night and dinner was a real highlight. Noel and I were very proud of Dallas. We did enjoy Hawaii. We saw all the sights and did plenty of shopping.
Later in 1987 Dallas was off to England to sail in the Admiral’s Cup, one of the world’s premier sailing regatta’s which New Zealand won for the first time. Dallas was sailing on a boat called Goldcorp. This event included the famous Fastnet Race. Again, Noel and I were very proud of his success. He had a young German Shepherd cross dog called Kane. While Dallas was away he came to live with us. He never left.
Around this time I started going on long walks. Pepsie and I had usually walked around the school grounds which were quite close to us.
It took Kane quite a while to settle down when he came to live with us. He was a mischievious dog to say the least. He had chewed away the dashboard on Dallas’ car when he first got him and was well known for being a bit naughty. When he came to live with us he would empty out pot plants and get into cupboards while I was at work. Most days I really didn’t know what I was going to come home to. But he did eventually settle down and became a very special part of our lives for many years. He had a lovely nature, Noel was especially close to him and he never did go home to Dallas and his new girlfriend Ulla. Ulla will always say that Kane was the best present they ever gave Noel.
Dallas had met Ulla when she was also working in sailing, on boats that provided tourists with sailing experience on the Auckland Harbour. She decided to become an airline hostess with Ansett and did the training with them in Christchurch a little while after they had met.
About this time Noel managed to cut his thumb just about off with a circular saw. It was only attached by skin really by the time I saw it, but I managed to wrap it up and get him to the local emergency doctor. It was a Saturday and I ended up driving him on to Middlemore Hospital where the doctors were waiting to attend to him right away. The thumb was re-attached which was really something. They did a wonderful job and after that Noel didn’t wear a tie for work anymore as he said he could no longer tie it properly.
While Noel was in hospital with his thumb injury I can remember Ulla coming to visit in her new Ansett uniform. She looked very smart!
A few years earlier Noel had opened an AMP Insurance office in the Waiuku township, prior to that he had worked from home. Ashley McIlmoyle came to work with Noel as there was room for another agent in the nice new office, and in Waiuku.
Pepsie was still with us at that stage, she and Kane got on very well but I did wonder what she did while Kane got into all his early mischief. Pepsie lived for 13 years, the same as Pixie. We came home from work one day to find she had collapsed. She did not recover. She was a great family pet.
After leaving the New Zealand Herald and travelling overseas, Aidan had returned home and worked for Rugby Press, the publishers of Rugby News. He then spent a couple of years with them and then a similar period with a small advertising agency. In late 1988 he made the decision to start his own advertising business which he named Benefitz. That business has very much become the family business in the almost three decades that have passed. When things started to get busy, Dallas gave up full time yachting and joined Aidan in the business two or three years after it started. As I write this Benefitz employs around 80 people and has grown to be a very successful and well respected business. Just about every family member has worked in the business at some stage over the years.
In November 1989 Noel’s mum Kathleen passed away in Gisborne. Noel’s brother Pat sent for us when she went into hospital. I was still working for the Franklin County News and needed to get time off because we ended up being in Gisborne for two weeks. When Kathleen passed away she was 89 years old.
Aidan and Michelle’s wedding in January 1986. Noel, his mother Kathleen, me, Aidan and Michelle, Dallas.
Noel canoeing with Kane. For a guy that never wanted a big male dog he got pretty attached!
A family photo taken during the time when my father Claude lived at Waiuku with us after mum had passed away. Early 80’s. From left; Aidan holding our pug Pepsie, Noel, Claude, Dallas and I.
The home Noel and I had built in Norfolk Rise, Waiuku.
My dear father Claude passed away in 1984. Having lost mum four years earlier it left a massive gap in my life. They were special parents.
- Chapter 5 -
The Family Grows - Moving back to Auckland
The 1990s started off in a very special yet traumatic fashion for us when our first grand daughter, Aidan and Michelle's daughter Courtney was born. It was traumatic because she was born more than 11 weeks premature on January 29th,1990, and weighed only 1100 grams. It was a shock to us all.
These small babies also lose weight after they are born, so she dropped down to less than 1000 grams before she was able to feed well and gain weight. She was tiny, only the size of her father Aidan’s hand as photos in this book show. Despite the troubling times during Courtney’s first days, and weeks, Michelle was marvelous and Courtney was a real fighter. She came home just under three months later around the date she should have been born. It is something I think about often, how we are very lucky to have her. She has always been our very special girl.
Dallas and Ulla had bought a little house in Pt Chevalier, a suburb only one away from where Aidan and Michelle were living at Westmere near central Auckland. They did many improvements to the house in the years they lived there, before they moved to the North Shore. They had their wedding in the lovely backyard of their home in November 1990. It was a simple, but lovely wedding, that was enjoyed by all on a wonderful sunny Auckland day. Little Courtney was at the wedding, and I can remember both Noel and I being very proud of the whole occasion.
Courtney was still so tiny even though she was by then 10 months old. Her aunt Kathleen (Michelle’s mum Margaret’s sister) made her beautiful dresses, bonnets and I was knitting from dolls patterns for the little helmets, jackets and booties. She was so small that we had to make tiny clothes for her. They made great dolls clothes for the girls in the following years.
Not long after Kane came to live with us, and it must have been after Pepsie died, Noel was taking Kane to the vet and came home with a little kitten that the vet had asked him to adopt. Noel was a real soft touch with pets! We called the kitten Denny. He was a shy and strange cat but Kane became really attached to him. They cuddled up together often, which was a lovely sight. Not long after Noel came back from the vet with a second kitten. That was Buzzy. Kane was close with Buzzy as well, but the two cats didn’t really get on all the time, but Kane was like their mother. I can remember putting my foot down with Noel and saying that two cats and a dog were enough pets for one home – no more kittens from the vet!
On October 21st, 1991 our second grand daughter Ella was born. Dallas and Ulla’s first child. She was lovely right from the start and became a very active blonde curly-haired, blue-eyed little girl. Ella really liked playgrounds and all the equipment for climbing and sliding.
Just seven or eight months later our third grand daughter Ashleigh was born so the family sure was growing, with all these lovely little girls! Ashleigh was a healthy – almost full-term baby (36 weeks). But this time Michelle was very ill after the birth. She had a very rough time, but her health improved and she quickly settled in to looking after two lovely little girls. Ashleigh was a very clever thing right from the start and has kept that up right to this day.
It must have been in January of 1993 that we went off to Gisborne for the Parker Family Reunion. There were 800 people at the reunion. The Parker family was Noel’s mother Kathleen’s family. It was obviously a very large family and these 800 people were the descendants of the first Parker’s to come to New Zealand from Ireland. The event was held at Emerald Hills Station which was about to be sold. It was quite a sight with 800 people gathered and being of one family.
Life went on in Waiuku, with work on the newspaper, yoga classes and enjoying our home. Then, in 1993, we decided to do a trip around the South Island. We took a month off work and drove from Waiuku to Wellington and crossed on the Interisland Ferry on February 26th. From Picton we went to Blenheim for the night. We had Kane with us (he went everywhere with us) so we had to find dog-friendly camp grounds. In Blenheim we had booked a wine tour and we ended up being the only booking so it was just us in a taxi (instead of a bus) and it was a very enjoyable tour.
Leaving Blenheim we travelled to Kaikoura but were unable to do the Whale Watching as the weather was too rough. We then went to Christchurch and had a good look around, then to Akaroa and then further on down the island staying a night here and there. Eventually we reached Invercargill and Bluff, then went on to Te Anau and the Milford Sound.
We had a fantastic day on the boat in the Milford Sounds. I can remember we saw dolphins which was a lovely sight. Along the way we also did a bus trip into the Manapouri Dam which was quite an experience. I can remember the tunnel was only just big enough for the bus to pass through. We also called in at an open cast gold mine which was a huge operation and had just opened.
We stopped at the Millbrook Golf Course and Resort that had just opened near Arrowtown and it was really something. Then it was on to Queenstown, Wanaka and the West Coast. We went up through Hokitika, Greymouth and Westport and then it was time to go home. We had a great time and as we headed out of Picton on the ferry back to Wellington we said we would come back some time to discover the Nelson area.
In May 1993 I turned 60. We had a celebration at a cafe owned by a friend of Dallas and Ulla’s near Westhaven in downtown Auckland. It was family and a few old friends. My three young granddaughters Courtney, Ella and Ashleigh were all there and it was a very pleasant day. We had celebrated Noel’s 60th at the very same cafe three years before and we liked their food and the area which was near the Westhaven Marina and lots of boats.
Around this time Noel and I also did a few day trips with our life-long friends Pat and Bryan Gulland. Noel had met Bryan while in the Air Force so we had known them for many years. They had shifted to Waiuku when the boys were at college. Jonathan, their son, had lived with us for a few months so he could start the new year at Waiuku College as Pat and Bryan were not quite ready to shift at that time. The day trips we had with Pat and Bryan were very enjoyable. They were mostly picnics on the way and dinner somewhere on the way home.
Our friends Judith and Murray Parkes had a caravan and we had our camper van so we would also take off for a few days together. We explored many parts with them. We would go to places like Whitianga on the Coromandel and our dog Kane was always along for the ride as well – he had a pretty good life!
I had retired from my newspaper role at Franklin County News so had more spare time, so with Pat and Bryan we took a trip to Invercargill for a week, doing day trips to Queenstown, the Caitlins etc. We also took a flight to Stewart Island which was a most enjoyable day.
On the 22nd August in 1995 our grandson Taylor was born. Dallas and Ulla were thrilled and so were we all, at long last we had a grandson and it felt like our family was complete. Three lovely granddaughters and now a happy little boy – Noel and I were over the moon.
For a long time Noel had high blood pressure and it seemed to be under control, but in 1997 he started to have a tight feeling in his chest. It would happen when he was riding his bike and even when he was watching the All Blacks playing. I can remember that one day it was quite bad and he had to tell me. He had been keeping the problem to himself up to that point. So I pushed him to go and see the doctor the next day who recommended him seeing a specialist. A few days later he was admitted to the Mater Hospital for some tests. The results were so bad he was told he needed a triple by-pass right away. They couldn’t do it at Mater, so the next day he was transferred to Greenlane Hospital where the operation was performed by a wonderful surgeon Alan Kerr. Noel did write to him 10 years after the operation to thank him. Thankfully, Noel’s recovery was very good and he was home in only a few days, but of course due to the seriousness of the operation the complete recovery would take a lot more time. So life had to slow down a bit.
Noel had completely retired from AMP by this time and the Waiuku office had been taken over by Ashley McIlmoyle. Life was a bit slower but we were travelling up to Auckland quite a bit to see the family as we were keen to keep up with the grand kids as they were growing up so fast. Dallas and Aidan suggested that we start thinking about a shift to the North Shore so we could see more of them. That was where their business was based and where Dallas and Ulla lived, while Aidan and Michelle were living just on the other side of the Harbour Bridge in Herne Bay.
Noel and I decided it was a very good and timely idea. So we needed to sell our house and find one on the Shore. We started working on this. Unfortunately it wasn’t a good time to be selling in Waiuku, so it did take us a bit longer than we had hoped. Noel had also decided that he could sell the house himself, without a real estate agent, as he had the time. We did eventually sell the house to an old school friend of Aidan’s. By this time it was December 1999 and we had also found a townhouse at Hauraki, quite near to Takapuna, where Dallas and Ulla lived. We were ready to shift on December 8th, so we could be all settled in by Christmas, just before the new millennium – the year 2000.
Both Pat Batten (my fellow Yoga instructor) and I were leaving Waiuku and we had found someone to take over our Yoga classes. We were given a wonderful farewell from the night classes organisation. We had been teaching Yoga in Waiuku for 25 years.
The shift to Auckland was a big one. We seemed to have a lot of furniture and possessions so moving day was a very long one. But we were thrilled with our new home on the North Shore that Dallas and Aidan had helped us purchase, bridging the gap between what we received for our Waiuku home and the additional required to buy in the expensive Auckland market.
At 1c Herbert Street we had a wonderful view of the water and the Harbour Bridge. So when we moved in just a few weeks before the Year 2000 New Years celebration we anticipated a night of fireworks from our new living room. Sadly, it rained so hard we couldn’t see a thing. But Noel and I were very happy in our new home on the North Shore.
Aidan’s hand demonstrates the size of our first grandchild Courtney when she was born.
Aidan holding his firstborn and our first grandchild Courtney. She was born more than 11 weeks premature on January 29th 1990, weighing only 1100 grams. Her first few weeks were spent in an incubator.
Courtney and I at my 60th birthday party, May 1993.
Aidan with Courtney in her very early days.
10 month old Courtney and I at Dallas’ wedding, November 1990.
A photo of me taken in the early 90’s.
Dallas and Ulla’s wedding, November 1990. Michelle, Aidan (holding Courtney), Dallas, Ulla, myself and Noel.
Noel with our grandson Taylor as a baby. He was so proud of his sons and all of his grand kids.
Our four grandchildren in the mid 90's: Ella holding Taylor, Ashleigh (left) and Courtney (right).
Once our kids had left the nest we enjoyed many trips with our life-long friends Pat and Bryan Gulland who had moved to Waiuku. Noel and I are photographed with Pat (centre).
Noel and I (right) with Bryan and Pat Gulland about to board a flight to Stewart Island, from Invercargill.
Our friend Murray Parkes and his wife Judith had a caravan and we had our camper van so we would often take off for a few days together. I am pictured with Murray and Judith.
At Millbrook just after it had opened in 1993.
Noel with our dog Kane, Bluff 1993.
With our dog Kane, Lake Tekapo 1993.
Noel at Franz Joseph, 1993.
Me (centre) with Noel’s brother Pat and wife Joy (right) and Noel’s cousin Sue (left) at Emerald Hills Station for the Parker Family Reunion in 1993.
Noel loved creating campervans. We had this van in the 90s with matching trailer to carry the extras as we travelled the country.
With Pat Batten, a very good friend and fellow Yoga teacher during our Waiuku years. This photo is from our farewell from Waiuku after teaching Yoga for 25 years.
I enjoyed playing golf at the Waiuku Golf Club for quite a few years.
Yoga class finale local newspaper article from The Waiuku Post, 1999.
- Chapter 6 -
The New Millennium
When the year 2000 arrived Noel and I were firmly settled on the North Shore and were loving it! The good thing was our new home needed a bit of work to bring it up to standard and this really suited Noel, a real DIY man. He was in his element transforming 1c Herbert Street.
Within a short time he had the walls all painted and the house was looking really fresh. We employed a builder to remove a wall that opened up the kitchen to the dining and living area. Noel also set about remodeling the kitchen and it turned out just the way we wanted it. Over time he also layed tiles through the hall, kitchen and dining room, we replaced the carpets throughout and in no-time we were very comfortable in our new home.
The garden out the back took a while for us to redo as it sloped quite a bit down to the boundary fence. We overcame this by terracing the garden and Noel also built a big deck area which we used a lot. He also built a steep set of steps from the deck area to the top balcony. That balcony had a great view, as did most of the top floor. virtually an unobstructed sea view.
Doing up the house consumed us for most of the year 2000. We really enjoyed it. Before long the entire house and gardens had been given a total makeover, with finishing touches including tiles in both bathrooms as well as the downstairs bedroom, laundry and hallway. Noel made a lovely job of it all and I helped out where I could.
In December of that year we found out that Noel had prostate cancer and was starting radiotherapy in the new year. Because of his heart troubles he couldn’t have an operation.
So we decided to give him a surprise 70th birthday. He was 70 on December 22nd 2000. The weather was super so we decided the party would be on our new deck. Noel knew the family was coming, but he got a nice surprise when many of our old friends arrived and it turned out to be a very special day.
The radiotherapy Noel was having for his prostate cancer was part of a medical trial that he had been asked to join. It was a huge success for him, as I understand it was for most who took part. From then on it was used on virtually all prostate sufferers.
I decided to try Tai Chi and found a class in Sunnynook which I enjoyed immensely. They were a lovely group of people and I went on to attend the class for many years. It shifted to a Milford hall later on and I would attend twice a week.
Around this time the boys asked me if I could supply them with a healthy lunch when they were at work each day. When we moved to the Shore, Noel had become the 'odd jobs man or janitor' at Benefitz so usually spent most weekday mornings there. So he would take the lunch with him and would always be home in time for his lunch with me.
Being on the North Shore was wonderful for us as we were seeing the grand kids much more and watched them grow up. One of the things we enjoyed was the whole family meeting up on a Sunday morning at the local Shore City Mall in Takapuna for breakfast. There was often all 10 of us, it was so good to see them all together. Later on, the family started coming to us for dinner once a fortnight on a Tuesday, that was also a real pleasure. It kept me on my toes thinking of things they would like and I enjoyed every part of it.
For several years Aidan and Michelle had been going to Pataua North, near Whangarei, and renting a bach in the Christmas and New Year holidays, They ended up buying a place of their own in late 2000. Pataua was a wonderful spot and so safe for the young ones. Ella came up with Noel and I a couple of times and we climbed the Pataua mountain and the kids jumped off the famous Pataua bridge.
Aidan turned 40 in late 2002 and Noel and I went to Fiji with Aidan, Michelle and the kids to celebrate. We stayed at the The Fijian on the Coral Coast. It was a lovely family holiday and a great way to celebrate an important birthday.
In May 2003 I turned 70 and I had a lovely get-together with family and friends at Aidan and Michelle’s place in Herne Bay. We took a family photograph of the 10 of us, all together, this photo has always been very important to me.
The years were passing by and we were very happy on the Shore with the family around us and we loved our little home at Herbert Street, near Hauraki Corner and Takapuna. We spent quite a bit of time in the garden and Noel always had a project on the go. He particularly liked welding and used to make many large tables and things for the boys to use at Benefitz. He enjoyed this work very much and was so proud the boys wanted him to do this work for them.
In 2005 we went on another trip with Aidan and Michelle to Australia. The girls, Courtney and Ashleigh, were with us so it must have been in the school holidays. They would have been around 15 and 12 at that time. We flew to Adelaide in South Australia. It was a lovely city. We stayed for a few days, having a good look around the city and visited the Barossa Valley wine area. Then we drove from Adelaide through to Melbourne in Victoria along the coast road that is known as the Great Ocean Road. We stayed in a couple of little coastal towns along the way, saw famous landmarks such as the Twelve Apostles and then stayed for a few nights in Melbourne before flying home. Courtney and Ashleigh were seasoned travellers, well used to long car rides or ‘expeditions’ as Aidan called them. They were a joy to travel with and Noel and I had a great trip.
We had come to the North Shore in 1999 with our dog Kane and our two cats, Denny and Buzzy. Kane lived to the ripe old age of 15. Noel had become very attached to him and felt it badly when he finally passed away. The cats were just moggies really and were very healthy. Buzzy, the youngest lived until he was 20 years old and Denny lived a year longer and was 21 when he went. This left us with no pets and we hadn’t been like that for many years.
In 2009, Noel asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I told him I wanted a small dog to go walking with as I was tired of walking alone. I did think we would go to the SPCA. But on Mother’s Day, after our Sunday breakfast, the family took me out to a lady who bred pugs in the country, beyond Kaukapakapa. It was there that I chose Paddy, so that was how he came into my life.
Before Paddy arrived, Dallas and Ulla had a pug named Frank. Frank was over weight, so to give him some exercise and company, Noel would pick him up on the way home for lunch and he would spend the afternoon with us and then I would walk him home to Dallas and Ulla’s place about 5pm.
The home Noel and I loved in Herbert Street, off Jutland Road, near Takapuna on the North Shore.
With Noel and family at Aidan and Michelle’s place, Herne Bay. My 70th party in 2003.
Noel speaking at his surprise 70th birthday at our new home in Herbert Street, Takapuna, December 2000.
Noels 70th cake.
Kane with Denny one of our two cats, Denny lived until 21 and our other cat Buzzy until 20 years old.
Noel, me, Courtney, Ashleigh and Aidan in Barossa Valley wine area near Adelaide in 2005. We had a lovely trip driving from Adelaide to Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road with Aidan, Michelle and the girls.
On Mother’s Day 2009, after our Sunday breakfast, the family took me out to a lady who bred pugs in the country, beyond Kaukapakapa. It was there that I chose Paddy, so that was how he came into my life.
Noel and I joined Aidan, Michelle and the girls in Fiji in 2002 for his 40th birthday.
With Noel and the girls in Fiji for Aidan’s 40th, 2002.
Noel and I with grandaughters Ella, Ashleigh and Courtney on Pataua Mountain. Aidan and Michelle’s family bach is at Pataua North near Whangarei.
- Chapter 7 -
Milestones, Facing Cancer & Losing Noel
About this time Aidan and Dallas’ team at Benefitz were working with reverse mortgage firm Sentinel on their advertising targeted at seniors and they needed an older man to feature in their advertising. It was felt that Noel fitted the profile so his new modelling career started. He enjoyed it very much. Most of the time he featured in their advertising pushing a wheelbarrow full of bricks. He popped up everywhere during the period. On brochures, posters, in newspapers and on the back of buses all over the country.
In 2011, our eldest grandchild Courtney turned 21 and Noel and I were able to be at her party held in a private area at a pub in the city. It was so good to be there and celebrate with her. She had come a long way from the very early and tiny start she had to life way back in 1990. She had become a strong, healthy and clever young lady of 21.
Courtney was the first in our family to go to University so we were very proud of her. She completed a communications degree. When she left Auckland Girls Grammar School she had earned three scholarships which helped her through her study during those university years.
Later on in 2011 I felt I wasn’t in the best of health and with the advice of my doctor Jean Lim I was given a colonoscopy. That found I had colon cancer. I was admitted to hospital in September and had the operation which went very well. I was out of North Shore Hospital and back home in six days. It did take a while to get back to normal, like walking etc., but I did recover quite well.
Unfortunately, when I went back to hospital in December to have the reversal things didn’t go so well. After the first operation I had a colostomy bag that needed to be removed and my system hooked up again. Unfortunately, after this was done things didn’t progress as they should have. My system wasn’t working so well so I had to go back for a second operation. I ended up being there 21 days, including over the Christmas period.
So Christmas 2011 was an interesting occasion. The family had their Christmas brunch celebration as usual and then came up to North Shore Hospital to be with me and we had Christmas lunch in the visitors room of the ward I was in. It made for a very different Christmas. I finally was able to go home on New Year's Day 2012.
The next couple of months were quiet for us as I was recouperating, so stayed close to home. The family were away on their holidays, the weather was good and Noel and I enjoyed being home and resting.
One night late in February we both went off to bed as usual and about midnight I woke when I thought Noel was snoring but quickly realised it was much more than that. When I couldn’t arouse him I rang 111, the emergency number, and they gave me instructions as to how to help him but I couldn’t get him on the floor to try and resuscitate him. It was suggested I get a neighbour but the ambulance would be there very quickly. I did manage to alert Mark and Cushla next door but by the time we were back the ambulance was there.
Aidan and Michelle were away in the South Island, but Dallas and Ulla were around so they were quickly by my side and with me while the paramedics were working on Noel. After about 14 minutes they found a pulse in his leg and decided to get him to North Shore Hospital quickly.
Dallas and I followed and we spent the night waiting for news. One of the doctors came out to tell us that they were still working on him but his heart was very tired. He was in a coma and went up to intensive care.
Courtney was home and sent for Aidan and Michelle who very quickly came home from the South Island. As a family we all spent the next two days with Noel before he passed away.
The hospital staff were so good to us, letting us come and go as we needed and I can’t speak highly enough of the care they gave to Noel in his last hours. Courtney was so impressed she suggested we deliver some muffins to them. She did this for me and delivered them to the intensive care staff for both shifts. It was a very good thought and they were very grateful.
Dallas and Aidan and the family looked after me until I was ready to settle down to life on my own. I decided to stay in the house Noel and I had loved so much. I thought I could do it and cope with the garden and maintenance. I managed to do it for quite a while, but life was certainly different.
Noel was my rock, my lover and my friend. He had given up a lot for me when we married, walking away from his family and faith for those initial years. I don’t think I appreciated this at the time, but with maturity and experience I realised how big this was for him.
We were married for just under 58 years. Noel was a very loyal man and a family man. His children – along with me – were the most important things in his life. He was so proud of the boys and would do anything for them.
We both came from Labour voting families, but he became a staunch National voter. He could be quite ‘proper’ and old-fashioned in some of his views, but he liked a good time and enjoyed a drink.
As I have mentioned, he was very loyal – to me, to his family and friends and also to New Zealand.
Noel was always a real home body. He loved his home, wherever it was, and was always doing something to improve our homes. He became a real ‘DIY’ man.
He had great faith in me, always telling me that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. He would find projects for me to do – it took some living up to – but most times I managed whatever it was that we were doing. Such as learning how to upholster the many camper vans we had over the years.
Like all of us he had some annoying habits and traits. He was always telling me to do my hair – he didn’t like to see me scruffy. Noel did love his cars and it became a bit of an obsession. There was a time when we had a new car every year. I became a bit blase about it as I knew there would always be a new car in the garage or sitting in our driveway. Just one of his weaknesses.
I can’t forget the times when we were out on the water sailing in the trailer-sailor, we would be coming into the boat ramp or shore and Noel would tell me to jump out now so I could hold on to the yacht while he went to get the trailer – it was usually over my head!
We built two new homes in Waiuku and owned a few others, but I think he was happiest in our last home in Takapuna. It wasn’t new and needed work, but he made it very comfortable and we had a lovely view of the water and bridge.
Noel loved to sit in his chair and relax and enjoy the view. He also loved being in Takapuna because he was close to his boys, He thought the world of them.
Noel Bennett was a good man.
Noel in his modelling days. Reverse mortgage company Sentinel used him in their advertising targeted at seniors.
Noel usually had a smile on his face.
In his later years Noel loved nothing better than pottering around at home in Herbert Street, Takapuna, or going to work as the ‘Janitor’ at Benefitz.
Dallas and Noel, 2011.
Noel in Auckland hospital with prostate problems in 2011 with visitor Ashleigh.
Noel and I with Courtney at her 21st in 2011.
Christmas 2011 for me was in North Shore Hospital following complications with my bowel cancer operation. The family came and we had lunch in the family waiting room.
Courtney was capped after completing her communications degree at AUT University in 2010. It was a very proud day for Noel and I.
Family dinner Mooloolaba 2013 during my 80th birthday trip.
Out walking in Mooloolaba with Courtney, Aidan and Ashleigh, 2013.
- Chapter 8 -
Life After Noel
Noel’s funeral, held at Dils at Snapper Rock and Takapuna Boating Club, was a real celebration of his life. His family and many friends from each stage of his life were there to say their goodbyes.
I settled into life on my own after Noel’s passing. I had very good neighbours and the family was always there for me. After a while the eight of them started to come for dinner every second Tuesday. I did enjoy doing the cooking and having their company. As time went by the numbers grew as the boyfriends started to come along as well.
Ashleigh was at university in Wellington for five years doing a law degree and I had told her that I would bake for her every time she came home, so she had about three things to take back with her. Mostly she liked peanut brownies, afghans and cheese straws.
Ella was doing her graphic design degree at AUT University in the city. She turned 21 in October 2012 and we celebrated with a party at a bar in Takapuna. It was another lovely celebration with family and friends.
Ashleigh turned 21 in June 2013. She had a really important exam on that day so Aidan, Michelle, Courtney, her grandad Don (Michelle’s father) and I flew down to Wellington and spent the day with her. We had a lovely dinner that evening and flew back to Auckland later the next day. It was a wonderful trip to be included in. She did have a full-on 21st party back at home in Takapuna a bit later in the year when she was home from Wellington.
After Noel had passed away Aidan bought me an iPad and also talked me in to updating my old phone to an iPhone. Little computers really, and I had never used a computer in my whole life. Five years on I am glad he did. I am proud that I now know how to operate both pretty well. On my iPad I play games like Words With Friends (scrabble) with a range of people, have a Facebook page and enjoy interacting on that and also read lots of news online, including the Herald.
It must have been around Christmas 2012, almost a year after Noel had passed away, that we started to talk about looking at The Poynton Retirement Village as a good place for me to live. With encouragement from Aidan, Noel and I had been along to look at The Poynton together in the last 12 months of his life. But he wasn’t keen at all, so we left it. He loved his chair and that view in Herbert Street too much!
The Poynton was building a new block of apartments at the beginning of the year, so we went and had a look at the plans. I decided it was a good idea. I could get a brand new ground floor one bedroom apartment, which worked well as I still had our little pug Paddy to consider.
So we set about selling the home in Herbert Street. It was good timing as the Auckland housing market was pretty buoyant and we knew the home would be popular. Aidan thought that Rosie Houghton and Rose Arnett of Prestige Real Estate would be a good team to work with me to sell the house. So we had a chat and engaged them to do the job.
Once I had made the decision there was quite a bit to do at home as Noel had left a workshop full of all sorts of machinery, tools and everything that went with them. Living in Auckland, his love for Bunnings had increased his collection of men's stuff. It was already considerable. Luckily a great deal of it could go to Benefitz, but there was also a lot to dispose of which kept me busy.
The house was put on the market in October. We had set the house up nicely, had three open homes and then it went to auction.
It was a very good auction. As expected it sold for a good price which meant I could pay for The Poynton apartment and also have a little nest-egg left over to make life a little more comfortable.
Everything worked out very well. I could also stay in the house until January 2014, which left me
three months until my brand new apartment would be ready at The Poynton.
So Paddy and I moved in to Aidan and Michelle’s place in Takapuna. A big place, near Takapuna Beach, where I had my own room and bathroom at the far end of the house. It was like being on holiday every day walking Takapuna Beach during those summer months. I earned my keep by planting a vegetable garden while there and as I write this I have kept it going and it is still thriving.
Before all of this happened I turned 80 on May 25th 2013. Over June Queen’s Birthday Weekend the family took me on a five day holiday to celebrate this milestone. I didn’t know where I was going – it was a surpise. All I knew was that I was flying.
We went to the Sunshine Coast in Australia, staying at Mooloolaba. It was such a lovely idea and five lovely days that I enjoyed very much and will never forget.
I moved into The Poynton in early April 2014. I was the first one living on the ground floor of the brand new block five, known as Takapuna.
It took me quite a while to get everything to my liking in the brand new apartment. It was exciting though, having a brand new sofa and two of my own armchairs re-upholstered. I also had my dining chairs re-covered which was also a real success. Everything was new in the apartment so I needed a few new things to go in it, like a new fridge for the sparkling new kitchen. I had also been able to choose the colours, carpet, curtains etc. so it felt like the place had my stamp on it.
It was great that I was able to take Paddy to The Poynton with me as well. He adapted very quickly to his new surroundings.
Before long others started moving into the new block of apartments. Sylvia moved in over the hallway a little time after me, Janet moved in as my neighbour and then Pauline completed the ground floor.
We were all widows, so had a lot in common and became friends very quickly. Wendy, a friend I knew from Tai Chi moved in the same day as Janet on the third floor of our building.
Shortly after moving in to The Poynton I started playing Croquet. Claude Monk, the father of Gary who is a good friend of Aidan and Michelle’s, had made me a Croquet mallet and it was at my door when I moved in. It was a very special gift. Claude and his wife Maureen are residents at The Poynton.
It was Maureen who started me off with the game and I really loved it. I talked Wendy into playing and we both enjoyed spending time together playing Croquet. We played on our own together for some time. We would put our names on the game list and no one joined us for some time as they didn’t know us and didn’t know how we played.
Robyn, another who has become a good friend, moved in to The Poynton on the first floor of my block. Also a widow, Robyn joined our group that by that stage had a routine of meeting on a Friday for happy hour and going to the carvery once a fortnight. Life was pretty good for me at The Poynton!
It wasn’t long before Wendy and I started attending Mike’s coaching lessons to learn the finer points of Croquet. When it came to our first ‘novices’ tournament we were lucky to be drawn together and we won and we got our names on the cup. We were chuffed and pretty keen on the game.
One Friday night at happy hour we were talking about places we would like to visit and I said I had always wanted to travel on The Ghan Railway Train in the middle of Australia. Two or three of the others said they would like to do that too and before I knew where I was we were booking a trip on The Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin. Four of us booked, but in the end Sylvia wasn’t well and was unable to make the trip.
So Robyn, Pauline and I went on the trip and it was wonderful. I enjoyed every minute of it and was thrilled to be able to tick another thing off my list. The Ghan trip was very special, enjoyed with great company. Since then we have travelled together on two more Moa Trek Bus trips – one to the South Island and another to the World of Wearable Arts in Wellington. We also went on a cruise on the Pacific Pearl from Auckland to Napier to take in their annual Art Deco celebrations. It was great that Sylvia was able to join us on all these other trips.
As Robyn, Pauline and Sylvia couldn’t attend the Croquet coaching lessons on a Wednesday, Wendy and I decided to coach them on a Friday and now they are all playing Croquet and loving it like I do and doing very well. My game must have improved as I am now playing in the Inter (retirement) Village team for The Poynton. We visit other retirement villages and they visit us on an annual basis. I enjoy these events very much.
In November 2015 I had a colonoscopy as I have been having over the last four years. The hospital wasn’t happy with the result and suggested I have another in about three months. This happened at the beginning of April, not quite five years since I had my first cancer diagnosis and here it was again. They had got it in the early stages again so I was back in hospital by the end of April 2016 for my second operation. The operation went well but once again it took me a long time to recover. I had 18 days in North Shore Hospital then home to rest, which I did, and once again I bounced back. I was soon back walking Paddy and playing Croquet.
So many people helped me through this operation with family and friends visiting and taking Paddy for his walks when I couldn’t.
As I write this I have been at The Poynton now for three years and I can only say that it has been very good for me. I have made good friends and am kept busy and fit with my walks with Paddy each day and the croquet I play, very often. My patio is secure so I can leave Paddy at home as well when I am playing.
Paddy loves The Poynton as well. He goes to DogHQ a local doggy day care place nearby with Aidan and Michelle’s dogs – Cocker Spaniel Olive and French Bulldog Maisie. They must stay close as in most photos the carers take (and put on Facebook) they are together.
Since Noel’s passing I love the regular walks with Aidan and the dogs around the beaches, streets and parks of the North Shore. Usually followed by brekky at a local cafe.
I love my ‘cafe time’ with granddaughters Courtney and Ashleigh.
A birthday High Tea for ‘the girls’, with Michelle, Ulla, Courtney and Ella.
Since Noel passed away my Pug Paddy goes to DogHQ ‘doggie daycare’ most Tuesday’s. It’s a family affair with Aidan and Michelle’s two pooches (Olive and Maisie) also going. The family are regularly featured in DogHQ’s Facebook page.
Sunday family dinners are a regular thing at the Northcote Tavern. With Courtney at the tavern in 2016.
An extended crew (including the Chadderton family) at Sunday dinner at the Northcote Tavern during 2016.
With Aidan just after bowel cancer operation number two in 2015.
With Aidan on my way home from hospital after beating the big C for a second time.
In my spacious apartment at The Poynton Retirement Village.
Aidan enjoys joining me for dinner at The Poynton Retirement Village restaurant.
Since Noel has passed away I have become quite tech-savvy with an iPad and iPhone. I updated to a new iPhone7 in April 2017.
My friend and fellow resident at The Poynton Wendy (right) and I won the ‘Novices Cup for Croquet’ at our first attempt. I really enjoy playing Croquet at The Poynton and against other retirement villages.
Back at Lake Tekapo during a trip with friends from The Poynton in 2016.
Milford Sound during a trip with The Poynton crew, 2016.
Who said you can’t go Jet boating at 83! South Island, 2016.
Cruising to Napier Art Deco Festival 2016. From left, Pauline, Robyn, Sylvia and I.
With Ella and Sean at their wedding in April 2017 at Millbrook.
Dallas (right) and his family at Ella’s wedding in 2017. From left, Bree Atherfold (Taylor’s partner), Ulla, Ella, Sean and Taylor. It was a very proud day for Dallas.
Ella and Sean’s wedding at Millbrook near Queenstown in April 2017. From left Aidan, me, Ashleigh, Courtney, David Chadwick (Courtney’s partner), Lesleigh and Robert Johnson (business partner of Dallas and Aidan) and Michelle.
With Dallas and Ella on the day she graduated with a degree in design from AUT University. Another very proud day for me.
Lunch at Wild Earth near Cromwell, Central Otago, 2017. Pictured with Courtney, Ashleigh and Michelle.
- Chapter 9 -
Things I Have Cherished
This year I am 84 on May 25th. Hard to believe. I have had a good life and I have cherished many things along the way.
Firstly, my mum and dad, Claude and Grace. They were wonderful parents. Being an only child I was indulged right through from birth to when they each passed away. I really loved them and still miss them very much.
I cherish being lucky enough to meet and marry Noel and the fact that he loved me and made such a big sacrifice for me. We had a happy and contented life together. I miss him every day as well.
My boys Dallas (now 56) and Aidan (54) have always been very precious to me. There was a stage I thought we wouldn’t have children, so when we did it was so special. I am as proud of the boys as Noel was. It was so good watching Dallas have success sailing. It was his life and still is. When Aidan started his own business at 25 years old I felt so proud of him. He knew what he wanted and went out and made it happen.
My grandchildren are a real joy to me and I feel grateful to have them in my life. I have attended the three girls capping’s – Courtney in communications, Ella in graphic design and Ashleigh in law – I am one very proud Nana. Taylor became a very very good golfer and pursued that career path for a while but is now completing a University degree and I look forward to attending his capping ceremony as well in the not too distant future.
One of the most moving ceremonies I have attended was Ashleigh being admitted to the (legal) bar. I felt sad that day that Noel wasn’t there to see this most important day in Ashleigh’s life. He would have been so chuffed.
In 2016, Ella and her boyfriend Sean announced their engagement. She met Sean at Benefitz (the family business where they both work). She then became our first grandchild to be married in April 2017. They had the wedding at Millbrook near Queenstown. It was a wonderful day and Ella was a truly beautiful bride as photos in this book show. This was another highlight of my life and again I felt a little sad that Noel wasn’t around to see it. He would have been so proud of Ella, now Ella Hawkins.
All the friends I have made along the way are people I cherish. The one’s I am still in contact with are very special.
Since I have been at The Poynton, Aidan has been walking up here with his dogs Olive and Maisie, picking Paddy and I up and we walk to Takapuna, or we have a beach walk, followed by breakfast together. This means so much to me and I feel very grateful. Sometimes Michelle, Ashleigh or Courtney join us and that is so good. We usually team up for dinner on a Sunday night as well – more often than not at the Northcote Tavern. I also enjoy the beach walks I have with Dallas and Ulla and their dogs. I cherish the time I spend with my family and that they look after me so well.
Some of the joys of my life have been my three Pug dogs I have had over the years – Pixie, Pepsie and Paddy. They have all been different in many ways, but they have all given me lots of pleasure.
With my granddaughters Courtney and Ashleigh (Aidan’s kids) at Ella’s wedding in 2017.
With my grandson Taylor and my granddaughter Ella (Dallas’ kids) at Ella’s engagement party in 2016.
- Chapter 10 -
The morning of September 4th 2017
There wasn't meant to be a 10th chapter in this book. I essentially completed my writing for the book in mid-2017. But my life was turned upside-down in early September of that year.
On September 4th 2017, a Monday, I started my day as normal. Shower, breakfast and then a morning walk with my dog Paddy. Little did I know this would be far from a normal morning.
On this morning Paddy and I set off from my apartment at The Poynton, down Taharoto Road to the Taharoto Park soccer ground. It was just before 8.30am. We took the regular route that required us carefully crossing over several side streets that run off Taharoto Road, one of the busiest roads in the area.
We reached the final side street before the park, Ngaio Street. Paddy was on his lead and reached the footpath – but I never got there. Out of the blue a car hit me on my left hand side. I fell back onto the road with a thump. I felt alright until it became obvious that the car was going to drive over the top of me and I couldn’t move to get out of the way. I can’t begin to describe how traumatic this was and all I could think of was oh no! The car did drive over the top of me.
I didn’t lose consciousness, but the mind is a wonderful thing and blocked the car going over me out.
At that time of the day, peak hour on the main arterial road feeding Takapuna, the motorway and Wairau Valley, there were a lot of people around. Everyone going to work. So it wasn’t long that I had help and an ambulance was called for.
I can remember a man coming to me and saying he had Paddy and asking where could he take him. I suggested he took him back to The Poynton where I lived. I found out later that this man was a bus driver and he did take Paddy to The Poynton office and they looked after him. The bus driver told the office staff at The Poynton what had happened and they rang Aidan and he and Michelle were at North Shore Hospital before I arrived. Dallas was there a short time later once Aidan had made contact with him.
I found out later that the person who hit me, the driver of the Nissan X-Trail vehicle, didn’t even see me. She thought she had hit Paddy because she had seen him running on the footpath, so decided to keep driving around the corner on Taharoto Road before she stopped. But her decision to continue meant her wheels had driven right over the top of me.
Someone did bring her over to where I was lying on the road, saying she was the person who ran over me and was very upset. She appeared to be crying and I wasn’t. All I could say was “why did you run over me?”.
Things moved very fast once the ambulance arrived. The accident scene was only a short distance away from North Shore Hospital, where I was first taken to the emergency ward.
I was obviously pretty badly damaged having been driven over by the wheels of quite a big vehicle. But how bad was what needed to be determined. I had full body scans at North Shore and they were concerned about the high possibility of internal injuries. I was also bleeding from my vagina which wasn’t a good sign. A sign of internal injuries.
The doctors at North Shore Hospital decided I should be transferred to Auckland Hospital. They were better equipped to deal with my injuries. Dallas and Aidan both came with me in the ambulance and I can remember my granddaughters Ashleigh and Ella being there at the hospital, and Ella’s husband Sean as well as Michelle. I was grateful that my wonderful family were there with me.
The ambulance went from North Shore Hospital over the Harbour Bridge very fast with the siren going and the lights flashing. When we arrived at Auckland Hospital’s emergency department we had a real greeting party – a big 'crash' team that were ready to go. They had been communicating with the ambulance people constantly while I was being transferred. My full body scans, taken at North Shore Hospital, were already on the screen at Auckland Hospital when we arrived.
Dallas and Aidan were briefed by the team leader who told them that it was going to be touch and go and prepare for the worst. Due to the bleeding they believed there was likely to be damage to my internal organs – not good for an 84 year old!
After examinations at Auckland Hospital the news did improve. It was determined that I had some minor internal injuries, including a lacerated liver and vagina. It was the laceration on the vagina that was causing the bleeding. The doctors also determined later that the liver damage would regenerate itself and repair.
But my injuries were still considerable and challenging for an 84 year old. Multiple pelvic fractures. My pelvis was pretty much smashed. Multiple right side rib fractures involving ribs four, five, six and seven. The medical experts needed to determine whether an operation was required. But after the examinations the doctors believed that despite the damage, all the bones were in positions where they would mend. They were in alignment. What I was facing was a period of six to eight weeks of lying flat, in the hope that things would repair.
I was in the Trauma Ward at Auckland Hospital for around 10 days, and the care and help I was given was wonderful. I was then transferred to Ward Nine at North Shore Hospital, a place I had come to know well during my two bowel cancer battles. I was at Ward Nine at North Shore Hospital for two weeks and again the care there was wonderful.
Once I was on the mend I was transferred to a private facility, the Forrest Hill Rest Home and Hospital. I needed to rest, lying still and that could be done in a private hospital which meant I wasn’t taking up a public bed at North Shore.
I was able to sit up a bit more by this time and with my family and friends around to visit me each day time passed. Right through my hospital stay at Auckland, North Shore and Forrest Hill I had visitors every day. It was wonderful. Family and friends. All my friends I have made at The Poynton made regular visits. I got lots of lovely cards, flowers and good wishes and all these things helped to see me through the tough times of two months recovery and bed rest. I couldn’t say it was easy, but I had help and support from every quarter.
After two weeks at Forrest Hill I was taken back to North Shore Hospital for scans to see how my fractures were. Those scans confirmed that they were mending very well but I needed an estimated three more weeks of bed rest. So it was back to Forrest Hill Rest Home and Hospital.
I felt I was really starting to make some progress when they said I could start using a walker. My instructions were that I could put full body weight on my left leg but only partial weight on my right leg. Right through my recovery I followed the instructions of the physiotherapists on exercises I could do to assist with my recovery and when I was able to use the walker these exercises were able to include both my legs and arms. It wasn’t long before I was walking up the hallways at Forrest Hill with the aid of the walker three or four times a day. The walker also gave me freedom to finally go to the toilet myself, which was great after having to rely on others for so long.
Using the walker I could feel myself getting stronger but I got very tired and slept a lot. Looking back I think that helped a great deal with my healing.
I had been told that once my fractures had healed to a certain point then I would go back to North Shore Hospital’s Ward 14, for rehabilitation before going home.
I was progressing so well that we cancelled the scheduled ambulance and Aidan picked me up from Forrest Hill Rest Home and Hospital and took me to North Shore Hospital for my follow up scans to check my progress to see if I was ready for Ward 14. My appointment was 2pm on Friday November 3rd.
I had the scans and then Aidan and I went for a consultation with the specialist. I asked him if I could go to rehab. His reply was that I could do better than that, in his opinion I was ready to go home and just walk! It was the best news I had heard in eight weeks.
Our only problem was that it was 3.30pm on Friday and it wasn’t as easy as just going home. I wasn’t fully recovered and needed some important things for my recuperation at home. A walker, a seat for the shower and the toilet. Aidan was determined that I should go home, so he contacted my case manager while we were sitting having a cuppa in the cafe at North Shore Hospital. She agreed that I could be quickly assessed by a physiotherapist in Ward Nine and if it all worked out they would give me what I needed.
That physiotherapist was just superb. This was the case with all the special people who cared for me during my entire eight week recuperation period at Auckland Hospital, North Shore Hospital and Forrest Hill Rest Home and Hospital. They could not be faulted and I can not thank them enough.
The lovely physio even helped Aidan and I to get the bits and pieces back to The Poynton. Then it was a quick trip back to Forrest Hill Rest Home and Hospital to get my things, and thank them, and I was home. Just under two months after that dreadful September morning.
I thought I had finished writing my life story, but Aidan encouraged me to write this extra chapter about being run over and the recuperation to complete the book.
As I write this I have been back at home in my apartment at The Poynton for around two weeks and continue to make good progress. Paddy has been looked after by a wonderful lady called Alison who has brought him to see me regularly which I have been very grateful for. Paddy will be back at home with me permanently over the next week or so and my life will be pretty much back to normal.
I am truly grateful to all my family and friends who supported me during my recovery.
Dallas and Aidan with me at North Shore Hospital on the morning I was run over.
A bigger new ipad helped to pass the time at Auckland Hospital.
Early days after the accident in Auckland Hospital.
A smile for the camera at dinner time while at North Shore Hospital.
Paddy visited me regularly while at Forrest Hill Hospital and Rest Home. He was very well looked after for three months by a lovely lady called Alison. She used to bring him to see me.
In my wheel chair at Forrest Hill Hospital and Rest Home. Finally getting out of bed after many weeks was a big step.
Time to go home... checking out of my room at Forrest Hill in early November.
My first outing after six weeks in hospital. Lunch with Aidan and Michelle in a wheel chair.
My first few weeks after leaving hospital were aided by the use of a walker. Michelle and Aidan took Paddy and I up to enjoy the sunshine at the top of Mt Victoria in Devonport a short time after I got home from being in hospital.
Things getting back to normal. Sunday dinner at the Northcote Tavern in late November 2017. Pictured with Ashleigh.
A toast to my recovery. Back having dinner with Aidan and Michelle at The Poynton in November 2017.
Words of Wisdom
What the 84 year old Lillian would say to 21 year old Lillian
At 84, if I was to give advice to my 21 year old self, I would say... Be gracious, be grateful, have faith in your own abilities, take opportunities when they arise. Be a good daughter, be a good wife. Choose the one you love, then love the one you choose. Be a good friend, be a good mother. Nurture your children, protect your pets. I have always liked this passage from the “Sanskrit”... Look to this day, for it is the very Life of Life. In its brief course lie all the varieties and realities of your existence: The glory of action, The bliss of growth, The splendour of beauty. For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is only a vision, But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well to this day.