Eulogy to our much loved Mum.
T’was the week before Christmas 1921 when Mum was born (hence the unusual spelling of her name but always pronounced Nola) – She was born at home at Chelsea Avenue, Otahuhu - the third daughter of an Irishman form Skibbereen named Edward Fuller and Ida Blanche (nee McComish) the daughter of pioneering New Zealanders.
Mum passed away at almost 90 years of age – but her life almost didn’t start at all... She was born blue and not breathing. Her Grandmother came to the rescue saying “such a pretty little thing – shame to let her die” – she was swung around, alternately dipped in hot and cold water but still no response... until they gave her a teaspoon of brandy and two little blue eyes popped open. She was her granny’s special little girl after that – mum had fond memories of her granny gently washing her hands, times of sitting on her knee and memories of helping her bake Banberry cakes - which I am sure gave mum her love of baking and cooking. Coming home from school was a real treat for us – the kitchen often filled with lovely baking smells.
She was the youngest in the family of one brother and three sisters. He older sisters called her "dingy" because she was always in tow. But mum thought of herself more as a ballerina and people remarked at the way she ran around the house on her tippy-toes. She was always conscious of looking nice - once as a tot, being prepared for family photographs she piped up “What about the powder”.
As a young girl she often stayed with her cousins who owned the Dyes Store at Kaukapakapa. She was allowed to collect the bottles from under the house and cash them in. We think this may have been the beginnings of her interest in retailing – we saw her selling apples at the gate when we lived in Puhinui Road, followed by setting up a successful florist business at Manukau City Centre. As a young lady her first job was serving at the “Blue and White” - a general store in Otahuhu and then as the popular receptionist at the Tobacconist and men’s hairdressers – she was known as "Miss Fuller" of Otahuhu. Sadly she was called into the war effort and was sent to work at Hellabies packing Bully-beef.
The upside of the war was that there were American soldiers stationed not far from Chelsea Ave and they no doubt had their eye on the lovely Fuller girls and were regularly brought home to meet their mum. Mum sometimes joked that we could have had the surname Fish if she had accepted the proposal of George Fish the son of a Milwaukee newspaper baron but she wasn’t in rush to settle down.
However, at the end of the war at the VJ celebration dance at the Papatoetoe Town Hall, a handsome young farmer from Ardmore saw her across the room and remarked to his brother “I'm going to marry that girl”. Our dad was good dancer but mum was really won over when he turned up at Chelsea Ave with a gift …..it was a horse. It is no surprise that their courting days included riding the horses on the farm at Ardmore all the way up to the Hunua Ranges.
After they were married she moved to the farm. Being a townie, her in-laws were certain she was the butterfly type until Mrs. Peterson was most impressed when mum sewed her own beautiful dresses. She helped on the farm, baking for the hay bailing crew, raising the baby chickens, and feeding the newborn calves. But she missed her mum at Chelsea Avenue and even without a driver’s licence drove the old Chevy truck to the train station at Papakura and travelled to Otahuhu regularly to see her.
In 1955 we moved to Puhinui Road in Papatoetoe – Mum made it an open home – it was always full of neighborhood children and cousins – she wasn’t a stickler for rules as long as we were home for tea. She instilled in us good moral codes and we were reminded that we came from Irish gentry – doctors and lawyers. The impression being that we should be dignified and do well.
She had variety in her Christian upbringing. Her father was Church of England, her mother was Catholic. She was christened into the C of E when she was born, then when her father died when she was 10 years old she was baptised a Catholic. At the age of 21 (through my uncle Gordon’s testimony) she was converted and baptised at the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle. Mum often joked how she was baptised 3 times by the time she was 21. She showed her Christianity by Fostering children, teaching Bible in Schools, Pin Point Crisis Counseling, and taking every opportunity to share the good news of the Gospel of Salvation. She was always a prayer and more so in her later years. She loved the bright music and the teaching at the AOG church held in the Auckland Town Hall that she attended for many years.
When dad died, Mum demonstrated her determination and resilience when she learnt to drive again at the age of 54 when she started the Rainbow florist business at Manukau City Centre, regularly driving to the Turners & Growers Market in the City. She became a formidable buyer at the flower auction and was known as “Mrs Rain”, the abbreviation of Rainbow. Her interests have included: The Papatoetoe Camera Club, The Warkworth Stamp Club, The Warkworth Writers Club and she has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Forest and Bird Society. She loved art and was a keen water-colourist.
Her mind has always been active, mainly because all of her life she has been an avid reader (but never of fiction), choosing inspiring life stories of people and their adventures. When her eyesight failed – she turned to talking books that she listened to on her Ipod and would relate the stories of adventure ranging from the Antarctic to the Sahara and of people like - David Attenborough to Michael J Fox and did so right until the end.
It was fitting that Mum could spend her last days at home with the cat keeping vigil and surrounded by people she loved. Early on the morning that she passed away - a song bird was heard outside her window - one of her beloved birds, a tiny winged angel, called her home.