Lo­cal sup­port – two way street to suc­cess

Matamata Chronicle - - Celebrating 90 Years Of Service To The Matamata Di -

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.

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