A busy century for Wanda

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By ROBYN BRISTOW

Wanda Farrant, a former Waipara resident, celebrated her 100th birthday last weekend.

Wanda and her husband Herbert (Bert), moved to Waipara in 1940, from Rangiora, where they began their married life.

The couple, who met at a friend’s wedding, worked for the North Canterbury Electric Power Board before relocating to Waipara, where Bert provided an essential electricity supply service to the vast farming community.

They remained in Waipara for 21 years, raising two children, Herbert, who was born in 1940, and Myee, born in 1946.

Wanda was the youngest child of Iris and Harry Beechener. She was born in Christchurch on January 12, 1919, and educated at Phillipstown and East Christchurch Primary Schools.

She loved all aspects of school life, both in the classroom and on the sports field.

Wanda especially enjoyed mental arithmetic and was sorry to leave school at 12 after gaining her Proficiency Certificate.

During her teenage years, money was in short supply. The family played cards, sang around the piano, and she dancing along with her siblings – Gordon, Phyllis and Muriel – and her aunts and uncles.

Mid-week, Wanda and her sisters went to the movies – the beginning of a life-long love of films.

She met Bert in her late teens, and married at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Christchurch in October 1939, with the wedding date advanced due to World War 2 being declared and Bert believing he may be called for active service.

They remained happily married until Bert’s death, 39 years later, in 1978.

Wanda was a dedicated home-maker, caring for her family with few labour-saving devices while supporting Bert during his long working hours. Visitors were always welcome.

Chickens were raised for meat and eggs and and Bert looked after a large vegetable garden, while Wanda cared for the fruit trees and flower garden.

Seasonal produce was preserved for use later in the year or shared with neighbours, friends and family.

Throughout their marriage Wanda managed the household finances with Bert giving her his pay packet, asking only for pocket money.

From necessity, Wanda became a competent seamstress. Wartime scarcity of clothing and materials led Wanda into sewing and knitting classes in Waipara, where she learnt to economically craft dresses, shirts, trouser and coats for her family.

Wanda was also a prolific knitter.

During her Waipara years, she was an active member of the community. She was librarian for 21 years while also taking administrative roles in the Country Womens’ Institute (CWI) and the Presbyterian Womens’ Mothers’ Union (PWMU).

She regularly attended church and helped each winter with floral decorations at Glenmark Church. She cooked for local functions, played tennis at Glenmark, and enjoyed miniature rifle shooting in the Waipara Memorial Hall.

In 1961, towards the end of Bert’s working life, the couple moved to Rangiora to ease into retirement in their newly built home in Manchester Place.

Wanda remained in Rangiora 11 years after Bert’s death before deciding to down-size and return to Christchurch to be nearer her ageing extended family.

With more leisure time on her hands, she became a regular traveller to be with Herb, Ruth and their children, Maritza & Matthew, in Auckland; and Myee, John and their children, Mark, Robert and David, in Melbourne.

In 2002, at 83, Wanda relocated to Auckland to live with Herb, Ruth and family, living independently, pottering in the garden, caring for her cat, and cooking copious amounts of delicious shortbread.

She continued to make regular trips to Australia until 2009 when, almost 90, she decided to put away her travelling shoes.

In 2011, 12 months after recovering from a broken hip, she moved into St Andrew’s Retirement Village in Auckland.

In her twilight years, Wanda has delighted in becoming a great grandmother, with her 10th great grandchild expected next month.