Angela Bridget Capes has been remembered as a woman who touched many lives and wanted to make the world a kinder place. She died in Whanganui on May 15, aged 80.
Her tireless work over many decades with children and people with disabilities was outlined at her funeral in St Mary's Church last Friday. Tributes included "an extraordinary person,", "inspirational" and "a woman of faith who lived her faith out in love".
Born in England, Capes came to New Zealand with her parents as a young woman. She trained as a Karitane nurse in Whanganui in the late 1950s and for the following few years worked with new mothers and in children's homes. From 1966-68 she was an infant welfare nurse in Papua New Guinea working along the remote Sepik River. It was a challenging time, having to learn Pidgin and navigate village life as well as waterways complete with crocodiles.
Capes lived and worked in an IHC home in Stokes Valley in the 1970s and while there became interested in the Open Home Foundation which arranges foster care for children. In 1978 she bought her own place in Whanganui with five bedrooms and a large rumpus room and set about filling it.
She began fostering children, initially with the help of her mother. Some were long term, some short, but all these children received her love and attention.
Capes was the driving force in establishing the Open Home Foundation branch in Whanganui in 1984 and remained with them until 1993. Overall, she is estimated to have fostered around 80 children.
She sold her house and built her retirement home at Mowhanau Beach but wasn't ready to retire. Moving to Canberra in 1993, she joined L'Arche, a community for people with intellectual disabilities.
After a trip to the UK, Europe and Canada for research, she returned to New Zealand with a view to establishing a L'Arche community in Wellington and so L'Arche Kāpiti in Paraparaumu began in 1998. She stayed until 2003 as the first community leader.
She did finally retire to her beach home where she enjoyed several years before having to give up driving and so moved back to town.
Capes had headed Amnesty International in Whanganui and also had a leadership role at St Mary's Church. She enjoyed painting, art galleries, Scrabble and overseas travel. Sadly, Parkinsons and the onset of dementia meant she spent her last few years in care.
A group from L'Arche Kapiti attended the funeral and offered tributes along with representation from the Open Home Foundation.