The "very special Nurse Stevenson" lays down her drill after half century's dedication to child dental care.
There was something fitting about meeting up with Jan Stevenson straight from the dentist's chair.
Vanity would normally have kept us well clear of public scrutiny until the face-deforming injections had worn off, but after 54 years as a school dental nurse it was safe betting Jan would take it in her stride. She did.
More than half a century's a heck of a long time to have told children to open wide.
When she retired in July it wasn't because she was sick to the back teeth (the pun's irresistible) of her job, it was because the time felt right. Besides, she had a new grandson to visit in Cambodia. Jan befriended the infant's father when they shared hostel space in Phnom Penh where she'd gone to assist in mission clinics, a prison was included.
"A lot of those living in the hostel were orphans working to achieve university degrees. I became friendly with one studying engineering. His mother died when he as 12, he raised his younger siblings on the street, he asked me if I would become his mother."
Jan being Jan didn't need time to ponder, she considered it an instant done deal. He, his wife and child have become her family, so has another young Cambodian she bonded with during her second working trip to his homeland.
Jan frets if she did the right thing bringing him to visit New Zealand.
"I wanted him to see a different country where he didn't have to be afraid of the police, of authority, where there's no corruption.
"He wanted to remain but there's no reciprocal work agreements between New Zealand and Cambodia and I couldn't afford to subsidise him."
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He's now engaged and studying for a MBA, he too was the motivating factor for Jan to head to Cambodia as soon as she'd hung up her uniform whites.
Home a week she's still giggling about carrying a pram, a gift for her grandson, on the back of a motorbike in Vietnam.
We've deliberately told you this part of her life way out of chronological order to give an insight into the character of this woman who's devoted the majority of her working life to Rotorua children and their dental wellbeing. It's not unusual for her to have cared for three generations. One former patient, now in her 40s, has fond memories of "the lovely Nurse Stevenson" making her butterflies whenever she raced to her with a wobbly tooth.
Friends, former patients and colleagues jostled to alert Our People to Nurse Stevenson's retirement and the need to record a job brilliantly done. She didn't share their enthusiasm; she's cemented into that "I'm no one special" category.
Sorry Jan, public opinion is heavily weighted towards you being very special on many levels throughout more than 40 years almost non-stop local residency. There was time away in the 1980s for advanced training before being seconded to tutor at the capital's dental nursing school but she never doubted she'd return.
Her own training was in Christchurch.
"I only ever wanted to be a dental nurse, nothing else entered my mind."
Coming from boarding school it wasn't difficult to adapt to hostel living.
"We had strict hours but still had a good social life." We prod for elaboration but mum's the word. "I won't incriminate myself by answering that."
One thing she will allow on the record is the time friends kidnapped her from her room.
"They threw me a surprise birthday party, Annette King was playing the guitar." Yes, that Annette King, the one who became a cabinet minister and, as Dame Annette, is New Zealand's top diplomat in Australia. She and Jan become close friends and colleagues.
Training, Jan earned eight pounds ($16) a week. Her first postings were in her native South Island. When she was 22 an OE beckoned but with school dental nurses unknown in the UK her career changed gear, becoming a dental assistant for a bunch of London-based antipodean dentists.
Flatting above a shop exposed her to the realities of a harsh British winter. "I had to sleep with newspapers piled on my bed to keep warm."
One of the practice's patients was selling an ambulance called Herbie, Jan bought it.
"I was used to driving a mini, suddenly here I was navigating one-and a-half tons of ambulance around double decker buses. I was going to use it to see the continent, parked it up over Christmas and the cold cracked the engine. A dentist friend got it going, I sold it for what I paid for it."
Travel plans on hold she cared for two children in Buckinghamshire. From there it was on to Devon "doing a bit of everything" in a family hotel.
"After tipping a tray of Dubonnet and orange drinks over a guest I realised I wasn't cut out to be a waitress."
Home, she was back in her clinic comfort zone but in for a culture shock when she was assigned to Frankton Junction. "Down south I'd met very few Māori, at Frankton there was a high percentage.
It was good grounding for the Rotorua years to come. She preferred it to Hamilton "because it was smaller and more friendly".
That said, she reflects on her surprise at encountering some Pakeha with racist attitudes.
"Things are a lot better now, at last I think they are, I don't know how Māori view it."
Initially she worked between Selwyn and Kawaha Point primary schools. "Kawaha Point had its own dental clinic, it's a cooking room now."
Involved in World Vision, Jan introduced the 40 Hour Famine fundraiser to local schools and groups.
"We had a lot of fun, it was delightful the way the kids were motivated to help deprived children in other countries".
Deprivation brings us to the present hot topic of child dental health.
"In the 70s we saw a lot of Vietnamese refugees who had the worst teeth I've ever seen, now a lot of New Zealand-born children have teeth as bad. We enrol children from birth, encourage parents to bring them in, but still the decay rate is way too high."
Ironically in the 1990s the then government decreed fewer dental nurses were required, a third were made redundant, training schools closed, Jan switched to a mobile clinic.
Throughout changing times and despite two hip replacements she's never lost her passion for her profession.
"I've enjoyed the children, their spontaneity, they are funny, delightful, emotionally challenging at times, but I've never doubted I was in the right job."
JAN (JANET) STEVENSON:
Born: Christchurch, 1947.
Education: St Joseph's School, Fairlie; Sacred Heart Girls' College, Timaru.
Family: Brother, sister-in-law, niece, 2 nephews, cousin. "She's like a sister to me. "My adopted Cambodian families."
Interests: Gardening, golf "I've just re-joined Arikikapakapa." Learning to play bridge, QE gym, church. "St Mary's is a big part of my life." Member Te Hahi programme working with police and her church to visit troubled homes. Former Lifelink counsellor. "The beach, I love summer."
On her life: "The career I chose made it rewarding, fulfilling."
On dental nurses: "They are a very, very essential service."
Personal philosophy: "Values, faithfulness, sincerity. Proverbs 3, verses 5-6 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart'."