Living by Lodge's motto

By Merania Karauria

Kathleen Smith has a long lifetime of stories to tell, and at 96 years there's plenty to talk about.

There's the Kotiro Lodge - aptly named. Kotiro means girl; Mrs Smith joined when she was 16.

She is now the longest-serving lodge member in New Zealand and holds the position of Vice-Grand for the Wanganui group. She has held these positions before and, in 2014, Mrs Smith will hold the top position of Noble Grand when the Kotiro Lodge closes due to falling membership.

Her mind is sharp as she recalls her years growing up in Wanganui East, where she has always lived since arriving in the city as a six-year-old from the UK.

"I weighed three pounds at birth and the doctor told my parents, "You will never rear her".

Mrs Smith's father's brother lived in New Zealand, so the family emigrated to New Zealand to a warmer climate and came to live in Wanganui East.

She attended Wanganui East School and then Wanganui Technical College (now City College).

"I was in Rees House and lost 10 points for talking to a boy in Dublin St." Mrs Smith laughs when she confesses to the transgression, but adds she was always a "good girl".

When she left school, and before her children were born, Mrs Smith worked at the Southern Cross biscuit factory in Ridgway St, before it became Griffins.

"We packed the biscuits upstairs and the ovens were below; it was very hot." When she left after five years, Mrs Smith was earning the top weekly wage of two pounds and 10 shillings.

Friendship, love and charity are the lodge's motto, values Mrs Smith has held close and is how she continues to live her life while maintaining her keen sense of humour.

"I take each day as it comes," the self-taught pianist says.

Daughter Lorraine attributes her mother's longevity to good genetics, and a daily routine that includes a diet of meat, potatoes and three vegetables.

Mrs Smith remains a member of St James' Church in Wanganui East, which she attends every Sunday and where she plays indoor bowls on Mondays and on Wednesday's at All Saints'.

St James' is also where she married her second husband after losing her first in the war.

She has put in many hours volunteering for different groups, and at age 80 Mrs Smith sat outside supermarkets in the freezing cold, selling raffles.

When she turned 90, Mrs Smith decided she would not sit on another committee: "I have had my day," she remarked.

Her eldest child is 70 and she has another son and daughter, seven grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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