It took a few years for Margery Johnstone to persuade her husband Stuart that moving into Evelyn Page Retirement Village was the right choice for them.
“I had a dear friend up here and I used to come and visit her,” says Margery. “And I said to him if we ever retire I’d love to go up to Evelyn Page to the atrium area.”
Stuart agreed that the village was beautifully appointed and was perfectly located just a short 10-minute walk from their home of 18 years in Edward Avenue, but he wasn’t fully convinced.
Declining health and no longer being able to tend to his garden or drive to golf prompted Stuart to rethink and, with the full support of their family, the couple moved into a beautiful serviced apartment in August 2017.
“After a couple of months here he just loved it,” she says.
They got their wish for an apartment off the atrium with its view over the village petanque and bowling green - an ideal spot for watching what’s going on.
“The great grandkids love coming in and having a go at petanque,” says Margery.
Great memories were made at the annual children’s party the summer after they moved in.
Their daughter Yvonne and granddaughter Julia decided they were going to try out the dunking machine, made by one of the residents, and to their delight Margery decided to join them for a soaking too.
“My husband was sitting in here watching us. He thought we were crazy!” she laughs.
Just over a year after they moved in, in September last year, Stuart sadly passed away from a heart attack and that was when Margery really felt the benefit of being in the village.
“The staff were so kind up here, I couldn’t believe it. Even the head gardener came up and gave me a hug saying he was sorry to hear the news.
“The nurses couldn’t do enough for me, they were just so caring, I have not one bad word to say.”
Margery, who is soon turning 92, says her faith and ability to stay involved and active also helped her get through the tough days that followed.
As she is still driving, it gives her the chance to help her good friend in the village, who is also called Margery!
“Because I can drive I can take her out for morning tea occasionally. I absolutely love doing that which is why I wanted to keep my licence,” she says.
The friends originally met at the Orewa Baptist Church, which Margery still attends, and it was her involvement with church that enabled her to fulfil her longheld dream of helping and caring for people.
As a girl, Margery had been inspired to become a nurse after watching a film about the leprosy mission in Fiji.
However, the family couldn’t afford for her to do the training and Margery was needed on the farm in Runciman near Pukekohe to help milk the cows.
“When our children were teenagers, because I wasn’t able to go nursing, I started a Loving and Caring group at Mangere Methodist Church.
“We helped care for patients from Middlemore and Greenlane Hospitals until they could return to their homes, so the house was always full.”
The couple then got the chance to go to Fiji with their church group and Margery immediately decided to visit the Twomey Leprosy Hospital.
“The matron showed me through the whole hospital and I asked her in what way could I help? She said the young man we had seen who had toes and hands missing would love a white shirt to go home with because he would be clean then, and the children would love some toys.”
Back home in New Zealand, Margery rallied her friends to scour the op shops for white shirts, toys and a sewing machine and shipped them over.
“I’ve still got the letter from the matron who wrote and thanked us all,” says Margery with a smile. “I had my heart’s desire come true after all those years. That gave me a lovely feeling.”
The couple left Mangere and moved to Orewa 30 years ago.
“I had always wanted to join a floral art club and there was nothing in Mangere so we came up here, because I’ve always loved the beach.
Margery with some of her floral arrangements
Margery’s passion for floral art remains, and these days she loves to share her arrangements with her fellow residents in the village, some of which are on display in and around her apartment.
“I love working with flowers so I have made some arrangements that I have given to people here that are living with dementia and I’ve helped them to make some too.
“I didn’t want to come here and do nothing,” she adds. And that’s something that can bring happiness to other people as well as me.”