If there's one person who can rightfully be applauded for putting their stamp on this city's commercial community it's Juliet Greene.

In the 60 years since she crossed the Mamakus to put down Rotorua roots she's led from the front in a slew of business-related organisations; Retail Rotorua, Keep Rotorua Beautiful and the Chamber of Commerce included.

Her services have been recognised by a council community award and as a Zonta Woman of Achievement.

According to her daughter Jocelyn, achieving and putting others before herself is what motivates Juliet.


"My grandmother used to say it was her sheer determination to get things done."

Our People had sought the younger Greene's guidance on the subject. Juliet may be an expert in the promotions field but on a personal level the skill escapes her.

It took a bit of cajoling to get it but, community involvement apart, the life story she shares is an eventful one; she's certainly the first person we've talked with who witnessed Hamilton's 1948 killer tornado. There's more to come on that.

First let's examine Juliet's life and times that had their genesis more than eight decades ago with her home birth on her family's Rotokauri (Waikato) farm.

"I was a prem baby, my midwife grandmother delivered me."

Juliet was primary age when her family moved near Te Awamutu. "I used to bike or ride a horse to school but if a borstal [Waikeria] inmate was on the run the wardens made us get the bus."

From secondary school Juliet attended Hamilton's Brains Commercial College "run by a couple we called Madame and Master".

However, her office skills were sidelined by a return to Rotokauri "to help build a cowshed, spending a considerable amount of time with blisters on my hands from turning the concrete mixer".

Juliet's love of shoes far outweighed her feelings for labouring duties. When a school friend's parents wanted someone in their Hamilton shoe shop her hand shot up.

Along the way she met "this handsome devil Bernard Greene, a builder's apprentice back from the war, I had to fight off another girl for his affections".

She won, they married in 1950.

They were a twosome when the tornado whipped in.

"It was terrifying, chaos. I went outside, for 10 minutes timber and iron were floating around like bits of paper. I saw a woman on a bike immobilised by fallen power lines, I was one street away from a chap who had his head chopped off by a piece of steel. It took Bernard four hours to get across town to see if I was all right."

The couple became dance fanatics.

"We'd go three or four nights a week. All the little country towns had dances, Hamilton had several ballrooms. We were in the Starlight the night some boys sent a white horse in as a prank. It caused a riot, girls were screaming."

Out of his apprenticeship, Bernard and a couple of mates went into business.

"Then one of the partners ripped them off, using all the company's money to buy his fiancée a big diamond ring."

Bernard joined forces with Hawkins Construction founder Fred Hawkins, it was that company that brought the Greenes to Rotorua where Juliet's parents were already running a dairy.

With two young sons in tow the couple bought one of Rotorua's most historic homes, the Camille Malfroy homestead on the road that carries Malfroy's name.

"We lived in it for 40 years, it was protected by the Historic Places Trust. When we sold it was moved to Holdens Bay."

The home became a repository for extended family. "My parents moved in, at times there were so many there the overflow slept in a caravan, even our station wagon, but it was great fun."

When Jocelyn was born, Juliet entrusted her to her grandmother and took a job at Foodstuffs.

"I needed to pay the fees for all the things the boys belonged to, at one stage there were 24."

Juliet was tempted from Foodstuffs by an insurance company, she hated it. "They just wanted to use my knowledge."

Pam Wilson of Rotorua Real Estate rescued her.

"It was the only all-woman real estate firm in town, we called ourselves the blonde, the brunette and the red head."

When Wilson sold, Juliet switched to the retail sector, spending more than 12 years at Global Gift House specialising in high-end china and crystal ware. "We expanded and expanded, I loved it."

By then Juliet had cut her committee teeth with the badminton club, Bernard was president. "I was the runner, catering organiser, we had 344 members, were training 180 juniors."

Her Sportsdrome fundraising work caught the eye of the late Harold Homes. "He was a man who really got things done, he'd say 'use your initiate, put it towards this cause or that'. Wonderful facilities and organisation like the Volcanic Playground, Keep Rotorua Beautiful (KRB) are due to him."

Juliet was a KRB founding member, ditto Retail Rotorua of which she became president. She was on the committee when a furore erupted over the 1980 move to introduce Saturday trading.

"People abused us because they didn't want to open, I copped a lot of flak. I'd go out for a sandwich and take two hours to get back because I'd be buttonholed by some very vocal individuals, the types whose actions didn't speak as loud as their words when it came to stepping up and doing the work."

The Chamber of Commerce was a natural progression from Retail Rotorua. Juliet was a long-term committee member.

"It was going through a pretty flat phase, we were trying to keep it motivated. Tourism was pretty stagnant, a lot of work went into developing that."

Her community commitment was slotted around her own work. When Global Gift House closed she went to a similar shop in Pukuatua St.

"After two years the Auckland owner sent me a telegram saying because I'd turned 60 my services were no longer required. That wasn't my best day."

Another body blow came when Bernard suffered a massive aneurysm, becoming an invalid for his remaining 14 years.

She rounded off her working years overseeing supermarket food demonstrators.

"I worked well into my 70s for the simple reason work stimulates your body and mind, it energises you and I love people."

Born: Rotokauri, 1931
Education: Whitiora, Korokouni Primaries, Te Awamutu College, Brains Commercial College
Family: Sons: James (Australia), Warren (Rotorua), daughter Jocelyn (Rotorua), 5 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren
Interests: Family, friends. Former Badminton Club committee member, funding member Rotorua Bowling Club. "I still love to garden." Reading "anything and everything". Current affairs. "Keeping up with what's going on in town." Jazz Club.
On Rotorua: "I was recently asked in a survey about local tourism, I replied 'what we used to do was done through the heart, today it's money motivated'."
On her life: "I've been fortunate, had lots of fun, loving and caring."
Personal philosophy: "Sow as you would reap."