Diana (Diny) Dermer, a long-time DUNZ member and wife of Director John Dermer, passed away, aged 75, at her home on March 1.
Diny played an active part in running their farm at Cheltenham, 15 kilometres north of Feilding, before the couple retired to Palmerston North in 2019.
She was born in Pahiatua, as her parents, Kit and Dombey Beetham, farmed at a little place called Pori, near Makuri, a small village about 30 kilometres east of Pahiatua.
John said: “She went to the Makuri School when she was seven because her parents reckoned she was too small at five (she always described herself as a little runt), and there she learnt very little, she thought.
“They moved to a farm near Waipukurau with a lovely old homestead and a climate that meant you didn’t need a raincoat on the horse’s saddle all the time. (Farm bikes were still in the future).
“Her mum died of breast cancer when Diny was 21. Her parents had sent her off to England at the time, but her mum’s death had a huge effect on her. “We met when we were 15, again when we were 21 and she somehow didn’t get married till I turned up again nine years later,” John said.
She worked as a waitress at Expo 70 in Japan and talked about that experience a lot. She also worked at the British High Commission and remembered sleeping under the desk after a boozy lunch. Sometimes waking up to see the boss’s shoes very close,
John said. “We got married in 1975 and I dragged her back to Waipiko, our little farm near Cheltenham, where we did all sorts of things, including having two daughters. “Diny loved the vege garden, her bantam hens and Pekin ducks, plus all sorts of other plants. She was a natural partner when we started to plant out Waipiko and develop the wetlands.
“She spent lots of time with a spade in her hands helping with actual planting. We had many discussions about what to plant and where.
“Both of us learnt a hell of a lot from our membership of New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, and all the areas – in the North and South Island – we visited as a result of this.
“She always seemed to manage a fruit tree or two into our plantings and as a result, I could pick an apple or a plum while cruising round the farm.”
Camping and tramping were other loves. She completed many of the South Island’s major tramps – the Milford, which she reckoned was the best, and the Abel Tasman, Kepler and Heaphy tracks. Diny was always a friendly face at DU’s conferences. Tributes to Diny spoke of her joie de vivre, laugh and honesty, and described her as a special person who was a lot of fun.
“Diny was such a vibrant and outgoing lady who lived life to the full,” one tribute said.
“She was always full of energy, bright and cheerful and never afraid to say what she thought!! Her warm character and zest for life will be sadly missed by many,” said another.
Diny is survived by John and their daughters Ana and Kate and four grandchildren.
Ducks Unlimited wishes to record the passing of Jonathan Williams Preston, 90, of Raetihi, at the end of last year.
Jon was generous with his support of DU and had enjoyed seeing the land that he previously owned being transformed by Graeme Berry and Paddy Chambers who bought it in 2004.
Jon was also a member of the Wanganui Vintage Car Club for almost 50 years and the owner of some interesting and historic vehicles. He will be missed.
Ducks Unlimited NZ received an unexpected windfall in October – in the form of a $2000 bequest.
Lifetime conservationist, author and former farm forester John Bracken Mortimer QSM, died at Waikato Hospital in May, aged 94. He was a former president of the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association.
Many environmental groups and other organisations have benefited from Mr Mortimer and his wife Bunny’s generosity but their greatest legacy is Taitua Arboretum, which they gifted to the City of Hamilton in 1997.
Hamilton Deputy Mayor Martin Gallagher says the Mortimers’ gift will be enjoyed for generations to come.
“John and Bunny’s legacy is immense,” Mr Gallagher said. “They have given the city one of its premier natural locations with an act of incredible foresight and generosity.
“The city owes John and Bunny a huge debt of gratitude.”
The couple began developing Taitua Arboretum in 1972 on their property west of Hamilton. They planted hundreds of trees on the 20-hectare block, before gifting it to the city. It formally opened to the public for visits in 2004 and has more than 1500 species of trees.
Mr Mortimer and Mrs Mortimer co-wrote several books, including Trees for the New Zealand Countryside: A Planter’s Guide and Trees and Their Bark: A Selection with Stories and Pictures.
DU is grateful for the kind gift from Mr Mortimer, fittingly described in the tributes paid to him as a ‘Man of Trees’.
Audrey Eleanor Pritt, born 2 January 1926 in New Plymouth, in the same month as George Martin who became the Beatles producer, and the German airline Lufthansa was formed.
Audrey died on 4 September this year, aged 91. She moved to Ohakune at 6 years old – her father working at the Post Office at Ohakune Junction. Audrey attended school in Ohakune, learned piano from the local nuns and highland dancing with her sister Anita, later entertaining American troops at the Junction.
After leaving school she worked in the Railways telephone exchange at the Ohakune Junction Station.
She went on to hairdressing school in New Plymouth, then took up her first job in Taihape, returning to Ohakune in 1948 to start her own salon. Audrey met Bill Pritt and they were married in 1951, moving to the farm on Smiths Road. With no electricity there at the time, she used a copper to do washing, a “Mrs Potts” iron and Coleman lamps for lighting.
The couple raised three daughters on the farm, Christine, Di and Lois. Audrey was involved in many community activities, including pantomimes where she played the piano for the Women’s Division of Federated Farmers choir.
She also served on the WDFF committee including as president. She was a keen golfer, winning the Junior Championships in 1967 and was made a life member of the club. She still played social golf into her 88th year, and served in most positions on the Club committee.
As a keen gardener she was a regular winner at flower shows including winning the Camelia Cup five times at the Waimarino Flower Show.
She was a member of the Waimarino Wine Club and worked with daughter Di in the Waimarino Wines from 1988 until 1993.
Audrey also worked at Bucks Drapery from 1966 until 1971. Though throughout her adult Audrey. life she worked on the farm, first with Bill until his death in 1989 and also with Di mostly feeding calves. During her time at Ohakune she witnessed two major eruptions of Mt Ruapehu, the first in 1945 and then again in 1995-96.
A service was held for Audrey at the Waimarino Golf Club on 11 September this year, attended by countless family, friends and golfing partners.
Obituary courtesy of the Ohakune Bulletin
That is the only time I can ever say that.
There is only ever the one Mum and there are no second times. It’s a strange concept and feeling that began in our case in 1923 when Mum’s life first began. In that time since, she has seen the effects of the Great Depression, the rise and fall of the hundreds of local Dairy Factories across New Zealand, the demise of steam trains and the rise of diesel and electric versions, the disappearance of trams, the popularity of international air travel, TV both black and white and colour, Kindergartens, draining of swamp land for farming and the return of same to wetlands, wars in Europe and
Asia and the absolute freedom to visit both (a trip to China with Pukeiti members), the fun of US Soldiers on Furlough in NZ and herself being able to travel there and to Canada, paper and paper-bags for everything then to plastic and back to paper. I could go further....but you get the idea.
In 93 years Mum covered a lot of ground. From humble beginnings in Ness Valley, South East Auckland and Waharoa, Waikato to a young employee in The Post Office at Waiuku. Meeting a young soldier Ross Payne from Palmerston North who was still on active service. Being Mum to 4 boys and 2 girls can’t have been easy. I was there!
Yet she still had time for us all at and about school, Scouts and Guides, sports etc. Time for active involvement in The Free Kindergarten Assn for many years including representing NZ at International Conferences. Time for the Clerical Workers Union....meetings in Wellington. Secretary at Papakura East School followed by similar at Auckland University where she typed theses for a young Peter Sharples who became Dr Pita Sharples among many others no doubt. A stray kitten found at the said University House on Alten Rd was dopted and lived with Mum for many years, known as Alten....there’s a picture of him in the lounge!
During this time there Mum gained her Bachelor of Arts Degree at age 63. This followed passing her drivers licence a couple of years earlier. Age was no barrier. By now she was a member of The Auckland Entymological Society, Railways Enthusiasts, Forest & Bird (gained the “Old Blue” Award here), Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust, Ducks Unlimited and a supporter of a number of charities. With Ducks Unlimited Mum took a trip to North America/Canada...who are these people you ask? A fabulous group of people who are active conservationists...check them out! The Leprosy Mission also received her support.
By now she is living in Howick and actively involved with the Elim Church. Here she completed a three year course in religious studies.
After an incident in a 4wd on a trip in Northland, she suffered from an uncontrolled head shake and her health was average. After starting the best nutritional supplement programme on the planet this disappeared and her health improved. She demanded these right till the end, knowing her eyesight degradation had stabilised as well.
Over a period of 25 years or more, she organised and ran day trips and major tours around NZ for the Forest & Bird Auckland Branch. These often required complete traverse (by car) to plan and book accommodation and highlights for the attendees. Mum’s friend Rose, whose eyesight was very poor, would accompany her while sorting out these trips. Steve and Christine were the bus driving couple on most of these trips and became lifelong friends. In latter times Mum would phone Rose and read her the newspaper as Rose could no longer do so.
We suggested Mum come to Taranaki with us where we could give closer support and there were now more family members. So at age 89 she moved to New Plymouth spending six months with us while she purchased her house in Fitzroy and redecorated it. Selling Pinewood Grove, Howick, was interesting. Sold by auction, it created huge interest and sold at well over expected price. She didn’t believe me when I told her the price and several neighbours instantly threatened that they also were going to sell!
Not content to do nothing, Mum went on a train trip of the North Island, attended two national AGM’s of the Ducks nlimited, Taupo and Martinborough, joined the Knox Presbyterian Church at Fitzroy and a few Pukeiti and Forest & Bird meetings in that time.
While it sounds as though all of these things are a singular effort, of course this is not so. In every case there were always other people who made Mum’s life what it has become. To all those people we say “thanks”. Not just for the big obvious things but many times those small unseen, unnoticed things that make up the matrix of life. For example the ladies who form the immediate neighbourhood... took out the rubbish, who would drop in for no reason, who noticed if the curtains remained drawn when they should be open....thank you. For the staff at Sporty’s who would walk Mum across the road or deliver the hot meal if it was raining. These are the things that make a life.
To the grandchildren and great grand-children who would drop in and visit.
The last group of people who deserve great thanks are those staff of the Taranaki Base Hospital and Tainui Palliative care. From the Ambos, to cleaners, to the Doctors, to the nurses to everyone who showed such great care, a real salute and thanks.
And so a circle of life closes...
And so more begin. Children, a posse of Grand-children and a growing number of Great-grand-children are here because...
Mum has left a legacy of which she can be truly proud. Did she do it on her own? Of course not. But she did enough to make a difference and that truly constitutes a legacy of which I am very proud.
David Payne with thanks to Sheryl PS. of course it is more than 48hrs ago....but that is when I started the story.
Since I wrote this initially we have held the Funeral for Mum. It was a really nice event of which she is most proud, I am sure. Friends and family came from all over. John Cheyne as President of Ducks Unlimited came and spoke. A wee touch noted by many was that he left a DU cap on the casket which Mum is wearing now. Mum was laid to rest in Inglewood Cemetery beside her Grand-father. Forty mainly family members attended the graveside ceremony.
A sub-note....Mum had a penchant for the understatement. Having been aware of her membership of Ducks Unlimited for many years, we thought it this obscure group with connections to Canada who shot ducks! In taking Mum to the last three DU Annual Conferences I learned the truth. It is way bigger and such a great group of people. As a consequence of John C. coming to the funeral, Dr George Mason wishes to liaise with DU with a view to co-operating on a research project he is funding!!
Recently in the last couple of months, Ducks Unlimited has lost three stalwart members.
They are Ian Pirani, Nancy Payne, and Audrey Pritt. You will find their obituaries, along with photos on pages 3 to 5 in flight magazine.
Nancy Payne one of the oldest members of DUNZ will be missed, always had a smile, and loved the chance to talk and catch up with the gossip.
Audrey Pritt, another well know and long time member of DUNZ was renowned for her cooking, for her happy smile, and always ready for a chat.
Ian Pirani should be remembered by all members. He was the first President of the DUNZ.
Nancy Payne passed away recently at 93 years, 31 years of which she had been a Ducks Unlimited NZ member. With the support of her son David and his wife Sheryl, Nancy attended many annual DU conferences the last one being at Martinborough in August 2017. In the past she was known to travel by train from Auckland to Ohakune to attend DU conferences.
Nancy’s interest in wetlands and waterfowl developed as a child when she lived alongside the Waitoa River. She pursued an active life-long interest in natural history and conservation. As well as being a member of DU she had also been active in Forest & Bird, Tongaririo Natural History Society,Auckland Entomology Society and Tiritiri Matangi Supporters Club.
Nancy was in the DUNZ group which attended the DU Canada Convention in Edmonton in 1993. Nancy, somewhat wistfully, considered herself an urbanite because she didn’t have the opportunity to have a wetland of her own. But she was always proud of her involvement with the DU sponsored brown teal programme on Tiritiri Matangi which enabled her to always think of them “as my little ducks”.