Rona’s service as recorded on Zoom.
Please note, the songs and Alix’s message are linked below, so you might want to skip through those sections, and then play the other recordings directly. (they are way better quality)
Rona’s Eulogy by Tony
On behalf of my sister Jenny and myself, I would like to thank you all for coming today – and to all you zoomies out there to celebrate Rona’s life. It’s been a real privilege to receive so many notes of condolences that share little vignettes of Mum’s life, and the positive impression she left on all of you: of an adventurous, independent, confident and caring person.
To be sure there is sadness at mums passing, however she’d hadn’t had a great year so mostly I feel relieved that she is no longer suffering and is at peace. Over time I expect that there will be waves of sadness, much as I have experienced whilst preparing today’s service. However, I consider myself an incredibly lucky orphan, i’s not so many of us that become orphans at 62! Mum was a happy soul, although you didn’t always know what she thinking as she mostly kept her own council, letting Sandy do the opinionating, whilst she just got on and did her thing. But she was also very independent, and had certain things she would not give up. For example, her dishwasher, and her car. Even once they were both retired, and could probably have managed with just one car, she refuse, saying that if she did Sandy’s work would ALWAYS be more important than anything she did! She would often say that if you wait for other people to join you you wouldn’t do anything. I think over her life she lived that motto to the fullest with many trips to Canada to see her daughters family, evenings out to Jazz shows with her friend Ian Ploughright. Whilst to some it may not seem remarkable that she did these things, but it’s important to bear in mind the time she lived. Women didn’t just go overseas on their own in the ‘40’s, nor was it common for women to go back to work when you had kids in the ‘70’s. I never really realised how unusual that was until I was reading through various comments from mums friends in preparation for writing this eulogy.
All that knew her will remember her style, her smile, her fitness and desire to chat and find out what was going on in the world and maybe, just maybe go for a coffee at dot.com!
In all honesty I have had to rely on other peoples memories of mum, to me she was just “mum” and I don’t think I always truly appreciated her and her achievements, so I’m going to borrow a little here from other people.
You will all no doubt know that mum was a Navy WREN, serving from 1944 to 1946. She was very proud of having been in the Navy and told everyone she met! She was always very self reliant, even into old age when she was less able, sometimes to the point of rudeness. If someone tried to help her they would be told in no uncertain terms that she could do it herself, you see, I was a WREN in the Navy. Mostly it was charming, sometimes it was annoying and occasionally it was just plain rude!
Here’s a piece from the RSA Review Summer 2014 –
“When the war ended, the Lyttelton (WRENs) office closed. Rona Brunt (then Hislop) was among the Lyttelton WRENS who transferred to Wellington, where she served her remaining year in the naval office processing discharge papers. In 1948 she decided to set sail on her own overseas adventure, which took her to England, Canada and numerous other countries. She made friends with two other women on the ship on the way over and they ended up travelling around together for a while. Rona got a job in a bank in Canada. She came back to New Zealand in 1951 and did typing and bookkeeping work for Gough, Gough and Hamer. A workmate set her up on a blind date with Sandy Brunt. The couple married in 1954 with All Black Fred Hobbs as their best man and moved into their new Sumner home. Rona and Sandy Brunt visited Sumner Redcliffs RSA every Thursday where they enjoyed regular camaraderie and a few laughs with other members.
Apparently (according to my sister) Mum had always said that she would be married before she was 30. She often bragged that she had achieved this by missing the deadline by 5 days! (born 15 April 1924, married 10 April 1954) My sister Jenny told me that mum would be sorely aggrieved because her death certificate said she was married at 30! Sorry Mum, that’s rounding for you.
Funny story. My sister and I had decided that we should have one last serious attempt to convince mum and dad to move off the hill – this was just before the eathquakes. We felt that it was getting a bit hard for them navigating the stairs and that eventually one of them would have a fall. Anyway, mum went out on one of her walks and came home sometime later with a massive black eye. We asked her what had happened and she said that she had tripped on a board near the old rowing club, and then loudly proclaimed “see, living on the flat is dangerous, we are much safer staying where we are”. And so they did, finally moving off the hill in 2016 at the ripe old age of 97 and 91!
I think many people had a better handle on mum than me. After-all, I was just her son, and children tend to take their parents for granted. She made friends with everyone, never seemed particularly judgmental, and would always make them welcome in her home, saying “Here’s where everything is, help yourself”. I know you will all have your own memories of Rona, but I’m going to get my friend Neil Brown to read some of the comments I have collected from Facebook postings from people that knew Rona – the modern equivalent of a telegram!
Before I do that, I just want to thank all of you who visited Rona over the years and who gave me support. A special thanks goes to Andrea Hunter, Sue Lewis, Inez Hunter, Penny Mower, Diana Weir, Joanne McMaster, Melody, and Andrea Richie, apologies to those I haven’t named but you know who you are, without you guys I would have struggled to cope with looking after mum. And lastly to all the staff at Edith Cavell who looked after mum with such skill, care, compassion and genuine friendship, thank you.
Comments from friends
Rona always appeared to me as I was growing up to be an early adopter of “the new”. As a modern working Mum, I remember her telling me about her decision to return to work and the marvels of fitted sheets when most of her generation still battled with flat sheets.Life was not meant to be difficult and if there was a time saving technique or piece of equipment that would make it easier she was on to it! Over time I truly valued your Mothers friendship and enjoyed her company immensely.
Memories as I was growing up:
- Rona was always positive, interested, lively, warm, engaging and energetic and a lady
- fiercely protective and proud of you and Jenny
- Loved her Sporty little Renault Car
- Invested in Driving shoes (very swish), modern and proactive.
- Your mum looking like a model in shorts in the summer with the best legs on Kinsey Terrace
- Her fondness for exercise in particular walking
- Community minded, minding dogs, cats and looking out for neighbours
- There was always a warm welcome at 33 Kinsey terrace. Both of your folks were always pleased to have a visitor and were genuinely interested in the welfare of others
- Shepherds Pie and Shirley Fritters, Rona was a dab hand with a mincer.
- She had a huge love of animals
- Proud of her war effort, kept her connection after the war with her “Wrens”
- Independent, long before women were
- Loyal to her friends
Your mum was a most charming, interesting and lively woman. She used to give me rides to high school if she saw me walking down the street. And in recent years I always enjoyed meeting her on one of her walks. One of the hill’s (Clifton) oldest identities gone.
She was such a lovely lady and so full of laughter and happiness.
Your Mom was a real legend with such a fantastic joyful energy- always a treat to see and visit her!
Rona was a gorgeous lady and it was always a delight to see her at Edith Cavell or walking about Sumner prior to that time. I’m going to miss her comment “You know my son Tony, don’t you?” Though she had actually got to the stage where she didn’t need to ask in her final year at Edith Cavell so that was even more special
I loved your Mother and the time we spent together. Her friendship and companionship was fabulously intense for the few months we were neighbours. What a privilege and honour to have shared that time together. Our daily walks together were healing medicine. She created the best of memories to carry forward. Thank you for having been the best son and care provider to her.
I remember meeting her. A real sweetheart.
Your Mum was an amazing lady Tony and lived life to the full. Only recently over the phone she shared memories with me of travelling the English countryside on the back of my Uncle Albert’s motorbike back in the day! She’s at peace now and not suffering any longer.
Andrea Hunter on her Memories of Rona
- Inez thinks that was where she and Rona first met, probably riding shotgun with Dad on a house call to one of the family
- Rona said she nearly met Dad years before in Trafalgar Square – that is she met someone there who she later discovered knew Dad
- Jen was a baby and Sue a toddler
- To us children she was Aunty Rona and then just Rona
- To Inez she was a close friend for over 60 years
- The Brunt’s became our second family. Later Rona became another grandmother to Sue and Brent’s children when Inez and Andrew were in Saudi
- We played together we holidayed together. We were together for birthdays Christmases weddings
- Rona was a woman with style and panache. She loved her clothes and jewellery. She always wore lippy. She had lovely hands always with nail polish. I can’t think of her without her silver bangles
- In many ways she was a traditional wife and mother Cooking, Baking, jam making, sewing and knitting, caring for her family and aging parents. Sue and Rona made the same NZ woman’s weekly celebration Christmas cake for years. She was thrifty and hardly ever threw anything out. A use by date did not exist as we discovered post-earthquake. We unearthed Historic Greggs Jelly packets that Te Papa would be happy to have in their collection. Birthday cards and even calendars were recycled.
- But her independence remained. She worked and managed her own money, prided herself on her accounting. She went to concerts and on holidays because she wanted to. She lived life on her own terms right down to refusing to alter her watch to daylight saving time.
- She was never sentimental about people-she didn’t hug or kiss – she didn’t do illness.
- But I think Rona was the most sociable person I have ever met. She or Sandy knew everyone. Inez says “If they didn’t know them then they couldn’t be real people”
- Rona studied the “arrivals and departures” in the paper minutely in case there was a maiden name she might recognise
- She was intensely interested in other people but never in a mean way. I don’t think she ever held a grudge – except for one and that was against a thing not a person
- In Lin’s words “I was sitting with Rona and happened to compliment the Queen Anne lounge suite. Rona replied “I’ve never liked it, one of Sandy’s girlfriends chose it”.”
- And it has survived her
- That kitchen was the heart of the Kinsey Terrace house.
- Rona making coffee (Sandy can get his own) and dishing out sweet treats at the kitchen counter while we talked.
- She had a sweet tooth. Coffee crystals, not white sugar, with that coffee. She loved lolly cake and Sue made it for her birthday for years.
- Coffee was an enduring favouite. Coffee made in the old stove top coffee perk, instant coffee, always in a mug and then
- Dotcom. I think they should put up a plaque inscribed “Rona made us have coffee here”
Books and reading
- We all associate Rona with books and reading. We Hunter children have early memories of going to the old Cambridge terrace library with its very bookish smell and Rona and the librarians in their floral smocks. Andrew tells me that as a small boy he was deeply impressed that Rona ran the library
- Rona always chatted animatedly about the library and what books she was reading.
- In later years the books gave way to the Readers digests
- And there was always The Press – She was a reader to the end. I visited her at Cavell a couple of weeks before she died and she had the paper on her knee. She wasn’t saying much and then she surprised me by reading out an ad for a carpet sale
Jazz and dancing
She loved jazz. We all have memories of Rona dancing, at Christmas, at weddings. Glenn Miller came on and away she went
Lin recalls going to see great jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson, with Rona at the Jazz Club at the Christchurch Town Hall on a Tuesday night during the 1980s. “It was an intimate and magical experience – we were all mesmerised. “
Stephen remembers that night because it was the first time he had met Rona and he was thought how cool she was going off to a jazz concert
- Wainui – Arthurs Pass – West Coast – Nelson. They were special times.
- Rona loved going to our bach and she was always a starter.
- She had her own special spot which was a divan by the window for reading or flicking through magazines and chatting.
- She Inez and Andrew toured the South Island regularly.
- Walking was her favourite exercise, I think because it allowed for talking and meeting people but 2nd favourite was swimming
- She didn’t like the hot pools in Hanmer – pools were for swimming. She loved swimming in the sea best although the neighbours pool would do when they were away and she was feeding the cat.
- Lin remembers Rona on Brent’s surf ski paddling around the Fox River lagoon
Cats and dogs
- I’ve mentioned Rona had no sentiment for people but cats and dogs – different story
- Shar, possibly the role model for Grumpy cat, indulged for 19 years?
- When Tony got a (job) dog she loved Jody – deaf? No problem. Both Sue and Inez remember her windmilling her arms on Sumner beach trying to catch Jody’s attention. She loved dog sitting and walking Elena’s Dobberman, Chubby and Greyhound Chiao. She would talk to anyone with a dog while out walking.
- She was devoted to Bitsa and Stripey adopted from next door and after Stripey’s demise – it was cat everything from then on. Scarves, brooches cards. Penny, you get a special mention for this year’s card which meowed happy birthday – over and over and over
And now she’s gone. She was life loving and a true friend. We have loved her and we will remember her
Slideshow of photos from Rona’s life (to make full screen, click on the little icon bottom right of the film strip)
I’ll be seeing you by Billie Holiday sung by Dave and Deanna Pearce (Rona’s Grandson and his wife)
Going Home by Sissel, sung by Dave and Deanna Pearce (Rona’s grandson and his wife)
Alix’s tribute to her Grandma