Tribute to couple who loved the beach
They once walked along the beach here at Rarangi. Now their ashes have returned to the place they loved.
There is a bench to remember them. At Rarangi, the place they once called home; the beach and ocean they were once inspired by, is now a fitting site for the memorial to Fran and John Wilks.
On a cold and windy afternoon at Rarangi beach, the unsettled sea rages against the stones on the shore. Cathee Wilks, Fran and John’s daughter, and granddaughter Steph McClure sit on the wooden bench they installed in 2010 to the memory of their lost loved ones. The pair remember Fran and John for their love of the people and the beach here in Marlborough.
Rarangi has always been a special place for our family. With Mum and Dad gone, we thought it would be nice to have something to draw us back to the beach … We wanted to have a seat somewhere to be able to reflect,’’ says Wilks.
Fran and John moved to Rarangi from Renwick in 1988. The couple enjoyed spending time by the ocean and walking their dog Pepper. Fran was a war child refugee, evacuated out of the UK during WWII to New Zealand with her brother when she was just eight-years-old. She would go on to be fostered by various families in New Zealand before settling in Marlborough.
‘‘Mum really really loved the beach ... and we decided that we wanted somewhere to remember them, because, you know, we didn’t have them anymore,’’ sayid McClure.
And because they liked the beach we decided that a bench would be a really nice thing to put here. It was a really special place for our family ... lots of memories of holidays and grandkids. So, we decided to put the seat out here so that everyone could enjoy it, look out to the sea and remember them.’’
When the couple both passed away – John in 2003 and Fran in 2010 - they were cremated, and the family had their ashes spread at Rarangi.
‘‘I remember Mum used to pick up hitchhikers on the way home to Rarangi and give them a bed for the night. She was a very kind person.’’
After getting permission from the Rarangi Fire Chief, they just needed to inform DOC where they preferred to have the seat.
‘‘Then DOC and the council had the seat installed for us. They were very accommodating,’’ says Wilks.
‘‘DOC gave us a couple of options,’’ says McClure. ‘‘And let us decide what site we wanted, they helped put it in, and everything, so they were fantastic.
‘‘We wanted a wooden one because dad was really into woodwork. Mum was really into poems and writing poetry and she did lots of art. So, we etched a line from one of her poems on the bench.’’
Fran would go on to to win a poetry prize for Sea Market, her poem about Rarangi, at the NZPS International Poetry Competition, and a line from it is carved into the wood: ‘‘The beach is open for business as usual.’’
‘‘Fran was inspired by the ocean in her work and poetry,’’ says Wilks. ‘‘The bench and mum’s poem are a tribute for those who loved the ocean.’’
Harry McClure, left, Steph McClure, Cathee Wilks and Lottie McClure sit and enjoy the memories of their loved ones – Fran and John Wilks.
A line from Fran Wilk’s award-winning poem Sea Market is carved into the the wooden back of the bench.