She was born 100 years ago in Horowhenua and given the name Haerenga Noa Nicholson.

But everyone called her Nanny.

Nanny Noa.

She died this week in Dannevirke - and will buried at Kaitoki Urupa tomorrow after what is expected to a large tangi, at Makirikiri Aotea Marae where she has been lying in state.


Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis said she was a kind and loving person, which granted her the name Nanny Noa.

"She was always so open and welcoming to every one she met and always gave such kindness and love to people," Collis said.

"That's why everyone called her Nanny because she was that kind and mothering figure to everyone she met."

Nanny Noa passed away in Dannevirke on Wednesday with family by her side.

Collis said even reaching the grand old age of 100 hadn't slowed Nanny Noa down.

"On her 99th birthday I had a bouquet of flowers to give to her and so I thought I would catch her during the day but every time I went to go see her she had already gone to the next thing she had on that day, and here I was chasing this 99 year-old woman around Dannevirke," she said.

 Nanny Noa had her 100th birthday celebrated by the town of Dannevirke back in March. Photo / File
Nanny Noa had her 100th birthday celebrated by the town of Dannevirke back in March. Photo / File

"Even just a matter of months ago she had this picture she wanted to show me but told me to call her before I came so she could vacuum and I just thought to myself I should be the one doing that not you, but that was just how she was - always going till the end."

Collis said the thing that brought Nanny Noa the most joy was seeing people, especially the younger generation, speaking and using the Maori language, which Nanny Noa was fluent in by 11.


"She was always so proud to see the younger generation using the Maori language, she was so proud of that and it really did bring her happiness."

Ikaroa Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri said Nanny Noa had been a strong part of Maori affairs in Hawke's Bay as she was affiliated with both Rangitane and Ngati Kahungunu.

"My first involvement (with her) I saw she was very active in supporting Maori and Iwi advancement in the area," she said.

"She was also a great leader not just within Iwi and the region but on a national level for a lot of people in the political field.

"Her wisdom and experience is how you would describe her, living 100 years you can't put that into perspective, some of us will be lucky just to even get over 70.

"But for her she was always on to it right till the end, sharp as anything."

When she turned 100, Nanny Noa told the Dannevirke News she didn't feel 100.

"I'm still active and if there isn't a car around to take me to town, I walk it," she told the Dannevirke News.

"Walking up to town is better than looking at television."

For Nanny Noa, a respected kuia, family was important.

Her living room was lined with pictures of family members and ancestors.

"I was brought up with people who were very caring," she said.

"The family I grew up with was very extended and they taught me to care for them and to care for others. I have tried to bring up my own family in the same way, so they can share whatever they feel. I've always been keen to share my knowledge with the young ones."

Granddaughter Tracey Nicholson, who called Nanny Noa 'Mum', had recalled how "We offered her a mobility scooter for her birthday, but she said, 'no, I can walk'.

Tracey and her two brothers were brought up by Nanny Noa from the age of three.

"Growing up with Nanny was a blessing," Tracey had said.

Fluent in te reo, Nanny Noa fiercely defended her language and was respected as the ultimate teacher of Maori language and culture.

"Although I live in the Pakeha world, my language is still with me. I have memories of the old people in the days when children were forced to speak English, but I haven't forgotten my language, I was fluent in Maori by the time I was 11. I can talk all day in Maori," she told Dannevirke News.

"My grandparents said without the language we wouldn't have the land to stand on.

"I grew up with no money, but I learnt te reo by listening to the old people, so I was rich."

Born on March 13, 1919, Nanny Noa's mother was young and she was raised by her grandparents. She remembers when they would hitch up the horse and cart and ride out to the beach to gather kai.

The black pipi they would collect are gone now, along with much of the toheroa.

Gone, too, are many of the birds she saw during her younger years.

With the guidance of her ancestors, Nanny Noa discovered New Zealand's rich flora and fauna.

"By boiling flax roots you could extract juice and the wiwi (a native wetland rush), also provided juice, simply by pulling the leaf out," she said.

"Those were the things the old people did."

Nanny Noa also spent time at Ratana Pa, immersed in the Lord.

"TW Ratana (founder of the Ratana religion) decided I knew so much through the language he took me on his travels around New Zealand, visiting marae," she said.

At 18 she began working for Woppi Hape in woolsheds and it was there she met her husband-to-be, Rhodes Tiwai Nicholson.

Central to her wonderful 100 years of life has been God.

"I say a prayer for my 10 children and the many, many grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren before I close my eyes at night and I say one for me, too. I do it all over again when I wake up. I don't forget the Lord," she said.

In 2007 Nanny Noa was awarded a Queen's Service Medal for a lifetime of public service, which included setting up a Kohanga Reo on her lawn in Robertshawe Cres with no outside funding.

She was delighted when REAP delivered a load of toys for the children.

A cook at the old Dannevirke Hospital, Nanny Noa was transferred to the Woodville Maternity Unit when Dannevirke closed.

But, one day she ran into trouble with a traffic officer who pulled her over as smoke poured from her car's exhaust.

"The car had no warrant of fitness and needed two new tyres and he told me I couldn't drive it home after work," she said.

"I told the matron, a Mrs Shannon, I would have to walk back to Dannevirke that night. But she reminded the officer his wife was in the unit having a baby and if I wasn't there she wouldn't get fed. Matron rang the garage and arranged to have two new tyres put on my car so it could get a warrant."

On the eve of her 100th birthday, celebrated with a ball in Dannevirke, Nanny Noa had a final message of wisdom to share. "We must believe in ourselves. We must always remember the Lord, to share with families at all times, be truthful to yourself, and be truthful to others."

Nanny Noa is laying in state at Makirikiri Aotea Marae until Sunday, July 21, 2019 where a funeral service will commence at 11am, followed by burial at Kaitoki Urupa.