A long life de­voted to kin­der­gartens


Havelock North Village Press - - News -

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.

She was elected to the Hast­ings kinder­garten as­so­ci­a­tion coun­cil, and was pres­i­dent in 1955-1957. Hast­ings hosted the na­tional con­fer­ence in her last year in the chair and 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 in­flu­en­tial in getting kin­der­gartens out of town halls 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. 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 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. She is also sur­vived by 12 grand­chil­dren and 21 great­grand­chil­dren.

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 African-born and had lived in New Zealand since 1962.

Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia, the old­est ver­i­fied age was 122 years and 164 days Jean Cal­ment achieved. She died in France in 1997, al­though in 2017 In­done­sian man Mbah Ghoto 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.

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