An enduring friendship between two deaf women underpins this month's Grey Lynn auctions of a largely original bungalow and its prime neighbouring section.
Until late last year, long-term residents of the street were used to seeing an elderly lady sitting on her bungalow's front porch. She'd watch the world go by, invariably clad in her favoured combo of a dress over trousers. "And a hat," says Johanna, her friend and former carer. "Mavis was never without her hat."
Mavis Wells lived in the 1920s bungalow at No 21 for nearly 86 years, having moved there as a 3-year-old with her mother and grandmother. Born hearing impaired, she soon lost more hearing until she was deaf.
During Mavis' last hours in hospital, Johanna got permission to take Mavis' beloved dog, Molly, to visit. "Mavis beamed with a smile from ear to ear," says Johanna. "She lived until two weeks short of her 89th birthday."
Johanna has inherited the bungalow and its neighbouring section following Mavis' death late last year.
Character-rich Arnold St featured in the news when some residents disapproved of the modernity of a new house built there as the area's zone had heritage protection.
The new house went on to win a regional architects' award and sold for a record-breaking price.
Mavis went to Myers Park School for the Deaf for much of her childhood, and spent her working life at clothing manufacturer Greers, where she loved socialising with her workmates.
After her mother went blind, Mavis nursed her in the bungalow until she died when Mavis was aged 70.
Neighbours and friends watched over Mavis, and her menagerie of pets were good company once she lived alone in the bungalow.
In 1996 she read a New Zealand Herald article about a young deaf woman, Johanna, heading overseas to become certified as a trainer of dogs for the deaf.
Mavis contacted Johanna to see if her dog could be trained as a hearing dog, enabling him to alert her to significant sounds such as a knock at the door or the cooker timer.
The dog wasn't suitable but Johanna helped Mavis get hearing dog Molly.
They remained friends and Johanna spent time with Mavis and took her on outings. "She said I opened up her world."
Johanna became Mavis' full-time carer when the older woman's eyesight and mobility deteriorated.
Johanna founded Hearing Dogs for the Deaf NZ after being a nurse and occupational therapist. She spent hours on the bungalow's front porch listening to Mavis reminisce.
The bungalow and its neighbouring section backing on to Grey Lynn Park are to be auctioned separately, enabling the purchase of one or both.
Both are zoned Residential 1 because of the street's character, meaning any development will require council consultation.
Mavis never drove but the bungalow's front concrete pad provides double off-street parking. Character endures in the home's back-to-back bedroom-lounge fireplaces, front upper leadlights and abundant native wood, also used in floors. The bungalow's layout has three large rooms, which have most recently been bedrooms (one opens to a smaller room), and includes a lounge, a basic kitchen, a bathroom, toilet and back porch.
The bungalow's sizeable backyard has a gate through to the neighbouring vacant section owned by Mavis, where in her youth the local milkman grazed his horse.
Johanna was awarded a 2004 Queen's Service Medal for community services to people with disabilities and the deaf community.
These days she helps out with pastoral care for the Auckland Deaf Christian Fellowship, caring for an unwell deaf friend and helping with deaf communication.
She'd love to be able to do the bungalow up, but Mavis approved of her selling the properties and she knows this will enable her to continue to do her volunteer work.By Sandra Goodwin