Long life for kindy life member
Ellen Marion Sartori (Nellie) Stevenson QSM December 30, 1912 — November 1, 2018
A matriarch of New Zealand kindergartens and one of Hawke's Bay's oldest residents, Nellie Stevenson died at Waiapu House in Hastings last week, just two months short of what would have been her 106th birthday.
With a kindergarten in Flaxmere named after her, Nellie was a life member of the New Zealand Kindergarten Association, and at Queen's Birthday Weekend in 2009 became one of the oldest people to be named in a New Zealand Honours list, awarded the Queen's Service Medal at 96.
Born Ellen Carter in Wanganui, eldest of three sisters and moving from New Plymouth two years before the 1931 earthquake to live with an aunt in Hastings, her service to kindergartens dates back to when she joined the Hastings Free Kindergarten Mothers Club in 1943, when kindergarten teach was in relative infancy, based mainly in town halls and other community facilities.
After leaving the mothers club she was elected to the Hastings association council, of which she was president in 1955-1957. Hastings hosted the national conference in her last year in the chair when she was voted on to its national executive, retiring in 1965 when she was a national vice-president and made a life member.
Already a life member of the Hastings association she was seen as particularly influential in getting kindergartens out of town halls and other facilities and into their own premises.
She helped establish Hastings' first kindergarten in its own premises, and was closely involved with fundraising and building plans of at least seven across Hastings, Havelock North and Flaxmere, where that area's second kindergarten was opened in Chatham Rd in September 1975 and named Ellen Stevenson Kindergarten.
She also worked to lift the benchmark of entry to the Wellington Kindergarten Teachers College, and campaigned for better recognition of kindergarten teachers, including pay and conditions.
Heretaunga Kindergarten Association general manager Fiona Mason expects Nellie's contribution will be officially recognised at some stage.
“Effectively we're here because of her commitment and passion,” she says.
“I first met her in her 90s, and she was still committed and passionate. She was still coming down to the kindergartens.”
Children had also visited Waiapu House, where Nellie had been living for the last five years.
She was also a life member of the Heretaunga Kindergarten Association and the Hastings Bridge Club, married husband Ralph in 1938 and was widowed in 1981.
Farewelled at a private family service, she is survived by both sons and both daughters, all still living in Hawke's Bay and aged from 66 to 78 years. She is also survived by 12 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren
The senior years
The oldest age reached by a Hawke's Bay resident is believed to be the 113 years and 109 days achieved by Florence Finch, who died on April 10, 2007. Among other centenarians in Hawke's Bay have been Muriel Dewar, who died in December 2002, aged 107 years eight months. She was South Africa-born and had lived in New Zealand since 1962.
According to Wikipedia, the oldest verified age was the 122 years and 164 days Jean Calment achieved. She died in France in 1997, although in 2017 it was reported that Indonesian man Mbah Ghoto had passed away at the age of 146. The oldest currently is thought to be Kane Tanaka, in Japan who turns 116 on January 2.
Ellen (Nellie) Stevenson, 100, from Havelock North, pictured at the Hastings Bridge Club, Railway Road, Hastings.