Local support – two way street to success
Growing up, Graeme and Jan Waterson would spend the hours after school at the family furniture store on Broadway. While Jan would ask her father for money to buy lollies, Graeme would find small jobs to keep himself busy. “I can remember assembling the old ash trays and fire-side sets,” said Graeme. “They used to come in a box and you would have to screw all the bits together.” As well as selling furniture, Waterson’s and Co was in the funeral business, and one of Jan’s earlier memories is of her father working from home.
“I would fall asleep listening to him putting the death notices through to the New Zealand Herald,” she said. “He had a very broad Scottish accent and it was such a nice sound to fall asleep to.” Graeme was the first to go into the family business, leaving school at 15 and starting as a cabinet maker in the workshop. “Dad said when I had hair on my legs it was time to go to work,” he said. When his father died two years later, his mother Rosa Waterson took over the running of the business with his half brother Ken (Doc) Waterson. “We just carried on with work because that’s what one did,” said Graeme. After a brief stint as a polisher, Graeme started laying carpet and lino, and was the 55th person in New Zealand to become a Registered Master Flooring Contractor.
Over the years, Graeme trained a number of apprentices and said it was important to keep the trade going.
In 1963, he married Fay, who took over as office manager in 1979 when Rosa was ready to retire.
It was the ideal job for Fay, who was raising three young children, as she could work during school hours.
As the business continued to grow, Fay became more involved in the funeral aspect of the business, eventually running the office and becoming a celebrant. “Graeme and I complemented each other in the funeral industry,” said Fay. “We never had to say to each other what needed to be done, intuition was our strength.
“Graeme’s involvement was huge – one minute he was laying carpet and the next he was busy interviewing a family.
“To this day, we are still asked by families to conduct funerals, which gives me great pride, to help families in circumstances like that.”
In 1989, Jan (now with the surname Hill) was asked to run a newly added bedroom department, which she did for 18 years until she retired in 2007.
Graeme also went into semi-retirement about six years ago and is now primarily involved in an advisory role. Both remain directors of the company.
Waterson’s is now the longest-running family- owned business in Matamata, which is a great source of pride for Graeme, Fay and Jan.
They have seen the company go through many changes and have built strong relationships within the Matamata community.
“I think the great thing about running a business here is the personal contacts and friends you make over the years,” said Fay.
Graeme and Fay have committed a lot of time to the Matamata community and are involved in a number of groups.
Fay is a committee member and volunteer of the Citizens Advice Bureau; regularly plays the organ at the Anglican Church; is a wedding and funeral celebrant and Justice of the Peace; is currently president of the Matamata Women’s Club; and is a member of the Rose Society.
Graeme was a long standing member of the now closed Matamata Masonic Lodge; has been a member of Lions for more than 30 years; is currently president of the Matamata Memorial Returned Services Association; and is a life member of the Matamata Rugby Club – now United Matamata Sports.
The couple live just 268 steps (Graeme has counted) from Bedford Park and Graeme is involved with the 5.30 Club on a Friday night and heads down whenever there is a game on. “He is a rugby fanatic,” said Fay. Both Fay and Graeme have a strong belief in supporting the town you live in and try to encourage people to shop at local businesses. “It comes down to pride in your community,” said Graeme. “Matamata is a mighty place to live. I don’t think there’s a better place, and I’ve been to a few of them.”
Fay and Graeme Waterson with Jan Hill (formerly Waterson) ahead of the Waterson’s 90th birthday celebration.