Region's living entity laid to rest

By Annette Lambly

Matriarch and the last surviving founding member of Matakohe's Kauri Museum - Emily Mavis Smith was laid to rest in the family plot at Matakohe cemetery on Friday.

In her 103rd year, Mavis had lived in Totara House - the house built for her parents in 1896 - since her birth on November 9, 1910.

The last surviving child of eight children - six sons and two daughters born to George and Emily Smith - she had a fierce family pride.

Her grandparents, Richard Christie Smith and Catherine, were Albertlanders, the first white settlers to Matakohe - her father, George, the second white child born in the area.

It was round the George Smith kitchen table 51 years ago that her cousin, Mervyn Sterling, first mooted the idea of a museum to Mavis, sister Clarice and brother Tatty - the result - an internationally renowned facility.

A keen and competitive gardener (dahlias being the flower of choice), she volunteered at the museum and looked forward to any opportunity to dress up and take part in the museum's special days.

Mavis realised life as she knew it would be lost to time unless it was recorded and, in 2008 at the age of 95, she, with the help of co-author Paul Campbell, collated Child of the Kauri - a collection of memories, family life, tales photos, poems and cartoon sketches about everyday lives of those in the district, as well as the social and economic times of rural life at Matakohe.

In 2000, with the same foresight and determination to keep her beloved Totara House safe forever, she, with the support of her family, gifted the house, it contents and the surrounding 10 acres to the Kauri Museum Trust so that it may be shared with future generations.

About 200 people attended the service held in the Matakohe War Memorial Hall, including her cousin, Dr Lockwood Smith, the current High Commissioner of New Zealand to the United Kingdom and former Speaker of the House and longstanding National Party MP.

Tributes were given by family members - Patricia Henwood (nee Smith) who recalled Aunt Mavis' strict rules and "school of manners and etiquette" teachings, Murray Smith, Bill Sheppard and Kauri museum chief executive Betty Nelley who said Mavis' generous bequeath was a "living entity" that "provided a kaleidoscope of the past ... we will miss your humour, your stories, taking tea at Totara House and your pikelets".

- Northern Advocate

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