A woman who advocated for education and was instrumental in developing early childhood education in China had fond memories of Dannevirke.
Tributes have poured in for Betty Armstrong, who died in January at the age of 94.
Born Elizabeth Turner in 1927, her parents, Jessie and Albert Turner,
had a 200-acre dairy farm at Tataramoa, Matamau, about 11km north of Dannevirke.
In extracts provided by her son Dave, Betty once recalled that her primary school was very small with local children from the settlement.
She went on to Dannevirke High School, where she said the teachers were contemptuous of country children.
"Hurry up girls, you are not a mob of cows," she recalled the teacher saying.
As her schooling years were during wartime, they had an unusual collection of teachers, where primary-trained teachers would be teaching in a secondary school and looked down on by graduate colleagues.
Betty was not placed in an academic class – instead, she was doing shorthand and typing in a commercial class.
This was apparently looked down upon by her academic brother.
"Indeed, we had a hotchpotch of subjects including bookkeeping from a young teacher who told us that he had never done it before and was just one lesson ahead of us," she wrote.
Her music teacher, however, was very good and fostered a lifelong interest for her – her son Donald is a violinist with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Betty felt she was more fortunate than other girls her age, not only through the help of her older brother George but a teacher who "took an interest in me and spent many extra hours out of school helping me learn the things our classes did not cover".
"Forty years on I felt angry about this second-rate education, and I still feel angry when I meet my old classmates who did not have the extra help which I received. I have spent my working life in education, and it is not surprising that I have worked for equal education for all children, but 40 years on there are echoes of the past. In the news, we read about inequalities of education for children in the poorer areas of New Zealand. Echoes which I hope will be heard."
One of Betty's earliest memories was of the Napier earthquake and she wrote about various visitors to the farm during her childhood.
"A swagger knocked at the door – an old soldier who was down on his luck."
Her father had also been a returned soldier and fell for the man's hard-luck story, Betty once recalled. Albert offered the man food and some money. Jessie was not so enthusiastic.
There had been another man, Duff, who did odd jobs for farmers and lived in a shed.
Betty once wrote that country villages were friendly and supportive for those who fit in, "but those who choose to be different are never accepted".
Dave says she had fond memories of Dannevirke. Even though she moved to Wellington at around age 20, she visited often.
Growing up, she felt the two-storey buildings of the post office, the banks and the Public Trust Office were "very grand".
"Stairs were a novelty for us and we loved finding an excuse to go upstairs at the Post Office."
Betty would take up teacher training and by all accounts, she was a strong advocate for education for children.
She married Phil Armstrong in 1950 and went on to have five children between 1953 and 1961.
Her son Ian said she missed the professional side of her life and got involved in community life and early childhood education.
By then living in Brooklyn, Wellington, she resolved the lack of a play centre by starting up one with a friend, which led to a lifelong association and leadership role in early childhood education.
In the 1990s, when her husband began teaching in China, Betty participated in and led delegations to China. She also hosted delegations from China that would build friendships and promote early childhood education in China via the China NZ Education Trust.
A friend from China, Wang Huamin, who knew her through an international organisation for early childhood education, wrote in a letter about Betty's sincerity, wisdom, professionalism and friendship.
"When you were in Guizhou, you visited impoverished areas tirelessly. With your rich experiences, you helped us to develop various forms of early childhood education in the rural areas, and this got more disadvantaged children educated. Since 1994, we started exchange visits of early childhood education delegations between the two countries. These visits gave us the opportunity to learn about the New Zealand early childhood curriculum and broadened our horizons.
"Dear Betty, you were a highly respected senior in early childhood education in New Zealand, and you have made outstanding contributions to modern early childhood education in New Zealand."
Betty's children remember her as someone with a quick wit and a dry and mischievous sense of humour.
She is survived by four of her five children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.