Families tend to spread out as the years go by, but in the case of siblings Lewis Major, Lorna Judd and Grace Crow the family connections have stayed strong over the decades.
The fact that this brother and two sisters live in three sister villages reflects on their shared love of homes, that are now within the wonderful setting of a Ryman villages.
Lewis Major lives in a Ryman Healthcare’s Frances Hodgkins village in Dunedin, sister Lorna is a resident of Auckland’s Murray Halberg village and Grace Crow enjoys an apartment at Tauranga’s Bob Owens village.
Lewis is the oldest of the siblings and has a strong connection to Dunedin but explains that the family history is in the central Waikato. There were six ‘Major’ siblings, though two of the four brothers, Ron and Colin, have passed away in recent years.
Lewis at the age of 89 is the eldest, and he will turn 90 in October. His younger brother Frank still lives in the Waikato, in Morrinsville with his wife Rita.
The Major family, including father Mark and mother Agnes, started in Te Aroha where all six of the children were born, roughly 50 km from Hamilton. In 1945 their father, who had been a sharemilker, bought a farm at Tatuanui, on State Highway 27, which runs through the Waikato to the east of Hamilton.
Lorna, aged 79, says from early on the family would take its summer breaks in at a holiday park in Mount Maunganui “We were right at the foot of the mountain, at a camping ground there. Our parents did that for about 25 years, they took the caravan over there...
“We had a phenomenal upbringing in the Waikato, on the farm.”
From there the children spread. But everyone maintained strong family contacts, Lorna says.
Initially she went on to tertiary training, being part of the second intake to Hamilton Teachers’ College, starting at the college in 1961. Career choices were more limited in those days, she says, and she eventually decided to qualify as an accountant which was a better work choice.
She met Mike Judd, a fellow teacher, in Waimate and they married in 1967. He eventually became a top-dressing pilot, meaning the growing family moved all over New Zealand.
“We’ve got three children. The eldest boy was born in Oamaru, the second eldest was born out of Dargaville, up north, and our daughter was born in Gisborne,” Lorna says.
Part of their choice of Murray Halberg village was because the youngest brother, Colin, who’d spent much of his life in Auckland chose to move to Tauranga and into a Bob Owens serviced apartment. She and Mike learnt a lot from Colin about the Ryman offering. “Bob Owens was absolutely brilliant, the people there were brilliant to him.” Unfortunately Colin’s health deteriorated and he passed away in January 2022.
Living in a Murray Halberg independent apartment means they can mix with others if they want to, rely on strong village security and enjoy the views from the fourth floor which is a change from their previous home in beach-side Whangamata, Lorna says.
“We came up to Auckland and had a look, and we saw the two-bedroom apartment – it’s actually bigger than the cottage we were living in down there.”
Grace, who is six years younger than Lewis, says she left high school at the age of 15 to start in an office job. She’d been in the top class and later felt she might have missed out on higher academic achievements and a career.
She married Gavan Crow in 1960, having met at local Morrinsville dances and the couple went farming while raising a family of four boys. Grace says she is now very proud of her 11 grandchildren.
Initially she and Gavan bought farms, near Morrinsville and Te Kawhata, but soon enough moved on to her father’s farm at Tatuanui, staying there from 1972 until its sale in 2001.
“In the farming district at Tatuanui, it was a very social community with many organisations to join. At the primary school, if you weren’t there for some activity such as sports you were noticed by your absence. It was a marvellous era to bring up family,” Grace says.
Grace and the family enjoyed beach houses at Mount Maunganui and in later life lived in homes in Tauranga. Gavan, who was a director of the Tatua Dairy Factory, passed away about 18 months ago after an illness.
Grace, looking back, says the extended family members always got on well. And Lewis and his wife Beth would often travel to the North Island for catchups or family events like weddings.
Lewis moved away from the Waikato early on. As a youngster he took training at the Trinity Methodist Church Theological College in Grafton. He met Beth part way through his college training, on a visit to Dunedin, where they later married.
Lewis says he worked as a minister up in the Wairarapa in Masterton and in Cromwell, Central Otago. After a chat with the president of the Methodist conference, he changed his career path going into banking and stayed there for the remainder of my working life. “Eventually I got a job with the National Bank and I’ve been in Dunedin ever since.”
Lewis says he and Beth brought up four children, Stephen, John, Judith and Heather in Glendining Ave, North East Valley. Beth passed away in 2013, but before that the couple travelled regularly to keep in touch with family.
"Now at Frances Hodgkins, I can also look over my beloved Dunedin. Regularly during the week I play the piano for other residents while sitting at the grand piano," Lewis says.