She delivered three generations of Turangi's babies and made a contribution to the booming hydro town during the 1970s and 1980s that was immense.

Eileen Quinton, who was matron of the Turangi Maternity Hospital for 21 years and later an independent midwife for another 17, died last Wednesday, August 23. She was 89.

She practised as a midwife for more than 40 years after originally training as a nurse in England, although she was brought up in India, daughter of a British father and an Armenian mother.

With up to 120 patients per year, Eileen delivered thousands of babies during her long career, in some cases up to three generations of the same family.

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She and husband Ted and their son Keith emigrated to New Zealand in 1968 where Ted found work on the Tongariro Power Development and Eileen ran the 16-bed Turangi Maternity Hospital.

Eileen Quinton was matron of the Turangi Maternity Hospital during Turangi's busy boom years.
Eileen Quinton was matron of the Turangi Maternity Hospital during Turangi's busy boom years.

The 1970s were boom times in Turangi and Eileen recalled that one memorable day there were women in labour or with newborns everywhere - in the matron's cottage, the nurses' home and occupying all the hospital rooms. When the 24th woman arrived, she had to be sent to Rotorua.

Living just down the road from the hospital meant Eileen would attend for any complicated births and, given a shortage of experienced doctors in Turangi at the time, she had special dispensation to be in charge at births where a doctor could not attend.

Later she became an independent midwife and even converted a spare bedroom at her home into a birthing room after growing tired of finding women in advanced labour turning up on her doorstep and having to deliver babies in her lounge.

Ted would bring cups of tea and snacks, but preferred not to be present, although he was forced to stay on one occasion when the labouring mother grabbed his hand and wouldn't let him go.

The nursing training in Eileen's student days was extremely strict, but there was fun to lighten the load, including the time Eileen and her friends decided it was time to teach a lesson to a know-it-all orderly.

Wheeling a trolley to the morgue one night, he was unaware that the dead body under the sheet was in fact a very much alive student nurse.

When the body began to howl, the terrified orderly let go of the trolley and ran, leaving the trolley and passenger to career down the path and smash into the morgue entrance. There was some explaining to be done and Eileen and her friends received a reprimand. The orderly never returned.

Eileen began to progressively lighten her workload in the 2000s but was still delivering babies until she retired in 2007 in her late 70s.

She and Ted stayed in Turangi and Eileen cared for her husband, who developed Alzheimer's, until his death in 2009.

Eileen Quinton is survived by son Keith (Sarbie), three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.